STEVENSVILLE —Joseph Arthur Bischof, 59, died peacefully at home in Stevensville on Jan. 22, of liver and kidney failure.
Joe was born July 24, 1959, in Keene, New Hampshire, to Patricia and Joseph Bischof. He attended Keene High School, where he excelled in track and field and graduated as class valedictorian. He graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with an engineering degree and also received a master’s in business administration from the University of Hartford. He was a dissertation away from completing his doctorate in education administration. Joe was chair of the Granby, Connecticut, board of education for five years, credited with leading several renovation projects, including a $20 million refurbishment of the local high school.
Joe worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in college, and for Colt Firearms in Connecticut for 10 years. He fell in love with Montana while serving as vice president of Cooper Arms Co. in Stevensville, where he and his wife, Joël, bought land and built a house, before moving back east. While serving as principal of St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut, Joe was recruited back to Montana to serve as executive director of the Poverello Center, western Montana’s largest homeless shelter. Joe was very proud of shoring up the Pov’s finances, improving its public image, strengthening its management and governance, and putting it on a more sustainable path. He was especially proud to work with Missoula Housing Authority, the Veterans Administration and local veterans to build Valor House, a long-term transitional housing facility that has changed the lives of countless homeless veterans.
Joe also served as president of the board of directors of Mountain Home Montana, which provides shelter and supportive services for homeless young mothers. Under his leadership, Mountain Home built the on-site Mountain Home Apartments, providing permanent supported housing for young moms and their children. Joe considered this the proudest achievement of his career.
After his tenure at the Pov, Joe worked for Roscoe Steel, but soon felt pulled back to the nonprofit sector. He served as executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Montana and of the Montana Innocence Project. At his death he was director of the St. Luke Community Healthcare Foundation in Ronan.
Joe had a strong sense of justice. He was passionate about helping poor, vulnerable, and disenfranchised people, and about giving back to his community. He was tenacious — even stubborn — especially when told that something couldn’t be done. He did not hesitate to speak his mind. He had a big heart, and a sharp, businesslike mind. He loved Montana, especially being outdoors. He was an avid hunter, and enjoyed annual hunting expeditions with a crew of buddies. Joe loved running with Joël and his Run Wild Missoula Galloway buddies. He was a proud member of Missoula Sunrise Rotary for several years, and served as club president.
Most of all, Joe loved his devoted wife of 32 years, Joël, who survives him. Joël was the love of Joe’s life, as he was the love of hers. The two of them shared many wonderful adventures, with Joël’s free spirit the perfect counterpart to Joe’s more serious nature.
Joe was predeceased by his parents, his sister Mary, and his mother-in-law, Janet Clark, to whom he was a devoted son-in-law and who lived with Joe and Joël for 15 years until her death in December 2018. Joe is also survived by his brother, Patrick, of Keene, New Hampshire. Joe considered Susan Hay Patrick and Gypsy Ray his closest friends, and his two “Bond girls” mourn his loss.
A celebration of Joe’s life will be held Thursday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. at Garden City Funeral Home in Missoula. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Joe’s memory to the St. Luke Foundation’s campaign for a 3-D mammography machine, a cause Joe believed in deeply: St. Luke Community Healthcare Foundation, 107 6th Ave. SW, Ronan, MT 59864; stlukehealthcare.org/foundation/