Joseph Michael Sulock Jr., 72, died on July 26, 2020, suddenly and without pain. His last night was spent just as he’d want it — dancing into the night with Dot, his beloved wife of nearly 50 years, and sitting on the porch afterwards watching lightning bugs.
Born in Philadelphia on September 9, 1947, he attended St. Joseph’s University for his undergrad and then left the Northeast for his doctoral program at the University of Virginia, settling in Asheville in 1975. He and Dot started teaching at University of North Carolina at Asheville, and were known for their stellar instruction — and also for their legendary house parties. When Joe and Dot danced, people got up and joined. How could you not, they were having such fun!
Over the 40 years he taught Economics, he influenced the lives of countless students and stayed in touch with many of them. He was a natural teacher and coach; students and Little League players alike recount a level of stewardship they never forgot. Sometimes all it takes is one person to show up with care and believe in you, and Joe was often that person.
When Joe and Dot retired in 2016, former students traveled from around the world to celebrate them — and to share again in those patented Sulock moves. He and Dot kept up the wild times after they retired, going out a few times a week to see their favorite bands. The Asheville-based Flashback was a particular favorite — the band called them their “Band Parents.” Even after retirement, Joe and Dot showed their decades-long ability to get the party started: when they were done, no one at Pack’s Tavern would be sitting down. One of Joe’s favorite songs was “Summer of ‘69” — which, not coincidentally, was the year he and Dot met and had their first date at a drive-in. “Play That Funky Music” was another of Joe’s top choices. The band took to handing him the mic for the chorus so he could belt it out while getting low on the dance floor, in a kind of twisting squat. Joe was a great singer with a voice as energetic as his dance steps.
Joe also loved golf. He caddied from a young age; he used to say he learned a lot from listening to the golfers, and realized that to be happy, he should marry a woman of character. He was a member of the Country Club of Asheville for 34 years, where he spent many an afternoon dodging thunderstorms with his best golf buddies. And while he may have once said he wouldn’t want to be known after death for his booming drives and curling putts, would that really be so bad? Some called him a “hitting automaton” and others remarked at his remarkable short game. But there was something else about being on the course with Joe: he wanted to help you with your swing, he wanted you to play your best out there, his buddies said. He was a great listener and had an awesome sense of humor. “He made you feel at home,” said one.
Home for Joe was a life of service. He helped found the Asheville chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked tirelessly for VITA (Volunteers in Tax Assistance) helping people wade through the murkiness of preparing their taxes, and was active at Calvary Presbyterian Church, along with a host of other community organizations. While at UNC Asheville, he started the annual Crystal Ball Seminar, was heavily involved in the International Students Forum and actively worked as a fundraiser for the school and the economics department.
After his father, Joseph Michael Sulock, passed away, Joe became the bedrock of his extended family, including his sisters and brothers and their families: Cathy Riccardi, Mark Sulock, Diane Hill, George Sulock, Madeline Sulock McInerny and David Sulock. His daughter Rebecca and sons Michael and Davy survive him. And though he leaves behind a great many who will feel lost without his love and laughter, he was a lodestar in spirit and leaves a great many life lessons for those who knew him.
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