A Life Lived: Joel Briggs was a fun-loving person who enjoyed work and giving

Published 2:20 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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Editorial Director
Joel A. Briggs lived quite an interesting life – from working for the FBI, to visiting national parks all across the country with his family, to feeding the birds and squirrels in his backyard.
Joel, during the 35 years he worked for the FBI, lived in White Plains, Md., with his wife Ina and two children. At the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., he was over the print division and garnered a number of awards for his work. He also met a number of interesting people, including Robert F. Kennedy, who at the time was attorney general and came to the justice department gym almost every day to work out when Joel and some of his employees would be there. He also met Elvis Presley.
When Joel wasn’t working, he likely would be playing baseball, one of his favorite pastimes. Ina, his wife, shared how a Washington, D.C. team he was affiliated with would play many of their games on the lawn of the Washington Monument. “That was before it became so crowded. You couldn’t play ball there, now,” Ina said.
When he was in high school, he played with teams at the Franklin Field.
“Joel liked to stay busy. Even after he retired and we moved back to Elizabethton, he worked for a brief time at the JC Medical Center and later was over janitorial services at the Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City,” she shared.
Joel grew up in Cat Island, and never tired of telling stories from his younger days of growing up in that end of town. “As a boy he enjoyed fishing and hunting squirrels with his dad. He was the youngest of three boys, which include Clate Briggs Jr. and Jerald Briggs. He loved the families in Cat Island,” Ina said.
From the time he was a young boy until his death, Joel was a member of the Darold White Sunday School Class at First Free Will Baptist Church in Elizabethton. Ina noted that he was a member of the Sunday School class that built the three crosses on Lynn Mountain. “He loved the men in the Darold White class and his church, and as long as he was able to go, he attended church,” she shared.
Darrell and Ina were the parents of two children, Brian, who preceded Joel in death, and Christie, who lives in Wake Forest, N.C., with her husband and two daughters. Brian, before his death, suffered from pancreatic cancer and during early bouts with chemotherapy, Joel and Ina would travel to Maryland so Joel could take his son to his treatments. “We would go and stay two weeks, come home for a week and go back. The first two years of his cancer, Joel took Brian to all of his treatments so his wife could work,” Ina said.
Ina described Joel as a giver. “He totally gave of himself and resources to help others,” she said.
Joel and Ina until he became sick enjoyed traveling and visited many of the national parks across the United States.
For the past four years or so, Joel had suffered from dementia and was limited in his going and what he could do. For a while he enjoyed feeding the birds outside his home as well as the squirrels, that is until a bear discovered the squirrel’s nuts are pretty tasty. Thus, Joel quit feeding the squirrels and the bear which came down from the woods to share the tasty morsels.
“The dementia just took his mind and his ability to function. By the time his son died, he didn’t know he had a son. It robbed him of his life, his personality. It is an awful disease,” said Ina.
However, it was a heart attack that finally took Joel. He lived two weeks after suffering the heart attack. Following his death an FBI agent came from the Knoxville office to pay his respects and brought Ina a gold coin from the Bureau in appreciation of Joel’s service.
Joel Briggs was a quiet fellow, who served his country both through his work and as an Army veteran. He loved his family, church, and he never forgot his roots. He was a hard worker and made those who loved him very proud. Oh, that we all could follow Joel Briggs’ example of being humble, kind, and giving to those around us. The challenge is ours.

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