San Jose mourns the loss of a true civic booster

Joe Noonan, left, rides in a pedicab with his father, Joe Noonan, Sr., during a Viva CalleSJ event in downtown San Jose in November 2021. (Photo courtesy Ron Bennett)

Few people believed in the potential of San Jose like Joe Noonan. He was a booster in the truest sense, helping to lift up community projects and events to bring people together. How committed was he? Well, he dressed up like a banana to promote the Downtown Farmers Market and like a gingerbread man to publicize Christmas in the Park.

It was his genuine, heartfelt love for his adopted city that left his friends, family and colleagues in grief when they learned he had died early Tuesday morning at age 48. While his charm and smile were with him until the end, they were just no match for neuroendocrine tumors — a rare cancer that can occur anywhere in the body, which he had been battling for more than a year.

Social media tributes multiplied as word of his death spread among current and former downtown San Jose denizens. There was sadness for sure, but also gratitude and consistent mentions of Noonan’s kindness and enthusiasm. Local Color founder Erin Salazar called him “a source of light and optimism in our community,” and Terra Wood-Taylor, a longtime downtown resident and frequent event volunteer, said, “You couldn’t go a block with him, without him running into someone he knew (who he then would introduce to you). He was the most enthusiastic and friendly ambassador of everything San Jose.”

Joe Noonan, left, rides in a pedicab with his father, Joe Noonan, Sr., during a Viva CalleSJ event in downtown San Jose in November 2021. (Photo courtesy Ron Bennett) 

Noonan — whose family moved to San Jose from Illinois when he was in middle school — cut his teeth at a string of tech companies for 17 years before finding his calling connecting people in downtown San Jose. He had stints with Broadway San Jose, San Jose Downtown Association, Christmas in the Park and the City of San Jose, where he promoted events like Viva CalleSJ, Viva Parks and the Al Fresco restaurant program. He also managed the historic Twohy apartment building downtown — where he lived until moving in with his father, Joe Noonan, Sr., in West San Jose. He had last been director of operations for the Bay Area Furniture Bank and continued to serve on its board after his illness forced him to slow down.

When the Bay Area Furniture Bank was honored at a San Jose City Council meeting in April, Noonan was surprised to discover that he also was being presented with a commendation from Mayor Sam Liccardo for his years of work promoting events in the city. “Joe has a superpower of bringing people together,” Liccardo said at the time. “Every conversation includes, ‘Hey, I’ve got to introduce you to somebody.’ ”

Many of those people he brought together will be gathering at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18 to celebrate his life. The location is still being worked out, but you can bet it’ll be somewhere in downtown San Jose with lots of space.

Of course, Noonan would have waved away any fuss on his behalf. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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