In Memory: Joe Drabyak

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Joe Drabyak, a long-time bookseller at Chester County Book & Music Company, immediate past president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, and a friend and mentor to many in the book industry and beyond, died on August 27 of cancer. He was 60 years old.

In a posting to the Chester County Book & Music Company website, his bookstore colleagues said, “[Joe] will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. We all pray he's in a better place now, reading a ‘Joe Pick,’ and making recommendations to all that are with him. Rest In Peace, Joe.”

ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, “Joe Drabyak was a remarkable bookseller. Whenever you visited Chester County bookstore, Joe pointed out the titles he was recommending with enthusiasm and pride – and the results of his insight and skill were often staggering. Beyond his success as a bookseller, Joe was an extraordinarily warm and caring person, and all of us in this business stand taller because Joe was one of us. We'll miss him a great deal.”

ABA COO Len Vlahos said, "Joe was a great bookseller and a great man, and he will be sorely, sorely missed by all of his friends and colleagues."

NAIBA Acting President Lucy Kogler of Talking Leaves said, “All of us on the NAIBA Board are better at our jobs as directors and as booksellers because of Joe's tenure and especially because of the leadership shown during his presidency.” Her heartfelt message to NAIBA members continued: “To say that Joe was one of the people who, if you are lucky, comes into your life and makes it larger is to understate his full impact. He was a teacher, and so very skilled, that we didn't know that lessons were taking place. We learned patience, kindness, generosity of spirit, humor and love -- of books, of life, of family and friends. Many of the authors who met him recognized this about him, too, and paid tribute by naming characters after him.”

NAIBA Executive Director Eileen Dengler said, “Joe loved his bookselling community – he loved the authors, he loved the customers, he loved his fellow booksellers, he loved the publishers and reps who brought him all those great books. I hope this season we can embrace those same things in our own lives and enjoy them with a new fervor in Joe's memory. Just because we can.”

Kathy Simoneaux, the owner of Chester County Book Company, said, “Right now, I can’t think of Joe as an employee, bookseller, NAIBA president, pillar of the bookselling community, but as a fascinating, charming, and hilarious man I was lucky to know.”

In recent weeks, Simoneaux explained, Joe “knew that he was facing his death but he didn't want his final days to be miserable from the side effects of the radiation…. He talked about his father's death many years ago when he was diagnosed with advanced cancer but decided to forego debilitating treatments and went home where he enjoyed his last few months. ‘I want to go out as Joe,’ were his words. He looked back on his life with happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment, and pronounced it ‘wonderful.’ He expressed love for his wife, job, and all his friends.

“So he went home like his dad and had a few good weeks. He had a ‘Guys’ Night,’ watching a Phillies game with friends, lot of visits, calls, food, presents, and laughs. If he ever doubted people loved him, he certainly couldn’t have those last weeks of his life. And he got to go out as Joe.”

A celebration of Joe Drabyak’s life will be held on Sunday, October 3, at DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Visitation begins at 2:30 p.m., and the service will start at 4:30 p.m. All are invited to meet up at Chester County Book & Music Company afterwards to share memories and refreshments.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Neighborhood Hospice Inpatient Unit, 400 E. Marshall St., West Chester, PA 19380. Condolences can also be left on the funeral home website.