ing meningitis, pneumonia and staph infec-
tions as complications from surgery, doctors
were optimistic that radiation and rehab
would eventually prove successful.
their six children, home for rehab. Instead,
a doctor told them Joel wasn't going to
to 48 hours to live, but I understand you
have five other children, so you should be
happy about that.' I couldn't speak."
gathered days later in Doylestown to say
goodbye. He was just 27.
world, life all ahead of us," Altmeyer re-
called. "And then to find out one of your
best friends is really, really sick -- what a
punch in the gut. Why him? Why this guy,
who was just so full of life? It's still hard to
of people was. I remember thinking, `I just
can't get through this,'" Johnathan said.
"And I'll never forget, the first person I see
is Pam Laduke (now Conway), who I gradu-
ated with at Bonaventure. They were all
here for Joel and for me."
what 20-somethings never imagine they'll
no one saying anything. And then, as
young, stupid professionals will do, a spit-
ball fight broke out. I just hope Joel was
laughing his butt off as he passed through
the pearly gates."
helping to begin to heal the wounds of the
agonizing six months his family had just en-
the service, issuing a command to
Johnathan that he didn't consciously absorb
his spirit alive. For the rest of your life, make
sure you never forget Joel,'" Johnathan re-
called. "I didn't realize when he said it that
it was an obligation, but looking back now,
maybe Father Gerald knew what he was
Gingras Jr. Fund, which has donated
more than $1.4 million to the Ameri-
1989. Buoyed by the "humbling support"
of family and friends for the past 25 years,
more money to the 40-year-old ABTA than
any other foundation.
Wilson, ABTA president and CEO. "It's really
the exception to have a fund exist this long
after someone's death. To raise their level of
donations each year, and to see the energy
and the enthusiasm for their events con-
tinue to grow is pretty remarkable."
teenage tradition of bridge jumping into
the Delaware River turned into the seren-
ity of floating down the river in an inner
tube in the early 1980s.
instead," Johnathan said.
college buddies of theirs heard about it,
interest swelled and the first official Tube
Float was held in the summer of 1983.
fundraiser to help with Joel's rehab costs.
When Joel died in the fall, "my dad used
some of the money to plant five trees at
the cemetery, and the rest went to the
ABTA," Johnathan said.
"Today, we write them checks for
spawned a golf tournament held the day
before the Float, and a winter party that
has morphed into a black-tie gala at the
historic Union League in Philadelphia.
fundraising, said Joel Gingras Sr., patriarch
of the Gingras clan.
cause that's what he would have wanted,"
but the efforts of his younger brothers
Christian and Matthew "revitalized"
Johnathan in the late '90s, Altmeyer said.