Burlington man with cerebral palsy proves hard work leads to happiness

BURLINGTON, Iowa – Joe Coleman has cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t stop him from doing the job he loves.

“When he’s not here we notice,” says Kevin Dameron, Manager of Environmental Services at Great River Health System and Joe’s boss.

Everyday Joe comes in and checks the wheelchairs to make sure they are in the right spot.  He then hits every housekeeping closet to make sure it’s stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, and other supplies.

To many, Joe’s job may seem tedious, but to Joe, it’s his life.

“He’s our goodwill ambassador I like to call it,” Dameron says.

Wherever Joe goes, his cleaning caddy is right there with him.

“He never had it labeled before, but he’d put it down time to time and he’d come looking for it.  And I thought let’s get his name on it, so people know whose it is,” says Dameron.

Dameron then had a label made up with a Dodgers logo.

Joe lives and breathes the Dodgers and everyone at the hospital knows it.

“He’s a Dodger’s fan, but we can’t hold that against him,” says volunteer Mary Disselhorst.

Besides being a Dodgers fan and hard worker, Joe knows every single person's name working at the hospital.

“I don’t think there’s a person who could walk by here that he doesn’t know by name, which is remarkable because we have trouble remembering everyone’s name, but Joe has them all down,” says Disselhorst.

“Everybody knows I am a nice guy, good personality, good sense of humor,” Coleman comments. “I try to remember all their names, it’s not easy to do.”

At 53 Joe has zero plans to retire, but if he ever broke that news his coworkers would be very disappointed.

“I hope I’m gone first,” says Dameron. “He’s going to keep pushing through.  He loves it, he keeps telling us how much he loves being an employee here.”

“It’s going to be hard to replace him when he decides to leave,” Dameron adds.

For now, Joe just plans on working the job he loves.

“I have a lot of energy,” says Coleman. “I never get tired, until I go home and take a snooze.”

Joe recently won the 2018 Iowa Job Honor Award and was runner-up for Employee of the Year at Great River Health System last year.