Christian 08


Joe Laher

February 25, 1948 ~ August 24, 2018 (age 70)


Joe Laher, 70, of Auburn, died Friday August 24, 2018 at his home surrounded by his family. Joe was born February 25, 1948 in Erie, Pennsylvania, a son of the late Joseph and Catherine Laher. Joe served as senior pastor at Christian Union Brethren in Christ Church in Garrett and also at First Presbyterian EPC of Battle Creek. He also worked at Pinnington Funeral & Cremation Services, was a retired United States Soccer Federation National referee, former director of Shelter Ministries, board member of DCMA and involved with Harten House Ministries. Joe is survived by his wife, Vicki Laher of Auburn; daughter and son-in-law, Nichole and Patrick Fischl of Houston, TX; son and daughter-in-law, Kevin and Danielle Laher of Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO; grandchildren, Lucas Laher, Loryn Laher and Levi Fischl; brother and sister-in-law, David and Marilyn Laher of Peoria, AZ; sister, Diane Cornielus of Houston, TX. A memorial service for Joe will be held noon on Friday with visitation from 11-12 pm at Pinnington Funeral & Cremation Services 502 N. Main Street, Auburn. Visitation will also be held on Thursday from 4-8pm at the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to CCAF, INC, Scholarship Endowment-Laher, PO Box 2128 Matthews, NC 28105.


All who knew Joe Laher would agree that he was full of life and left an impact wherever he went. Although Joe accomplished so much of which to be proud, he was a humble man who gave all glory to God. His family was his greatest delight; a more devoted family man would be hard to find. Becoming “Pops” just may have been his greatest gift. With unwavering faith, Joe fully embraced both the peaks and valleys in his life’s journey. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.

With the end of WWII in 1945, America was making the shift to being a nation at peace once again. It was during this transitional time that Joe K. Laher was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on February 25, 1948. The oldest of three, he was raised in the family home alongside his younger siblings, David and Diane. When he was five, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that gave him less than a five percent chance at living. Not surprisingly, he proved those odds to be entirely wrong. The Laher's moved to Pittsburgh right before Joe entered elementary school.

Even at a young age, Joe took the world by storm. Joe attended Bower Hill Elementary as well as Lincoln Junior High and Chartiers Valley High in Pittsburgh. In high school, Joe enjoyed playing football and being on the wrestling team. The summer before his senior year, his family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although he hated being pulled away from his school in Pittsburgh, it was while in Florida that Joe developed his lifelong love for the beach. Joe worked as a chef during his high school and college years and would eventually pass his love for cooking onto his son. He graduated from Fort Lauderdale High School and from Florida Southern College with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. Years later, he went on to earn his Masters of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary.

When Joe was 33 years old he married the love of his life Vicki. They met in the operating room while Joe was working as a Physician’s Assistant and she was a Surgical Tech student. They were both wearing surgical masks, but he fell in love with her just by looking into her eyes. Joe won the opportunity to take Vicki on their first date when she lost a bet to him. They soon fell in love, and on December 26, 1981, they exchanged their vows at First Baptist Church in Bartow, Florida. Although he never imagined himself as a father, Joe was filled with unspeakable joy when they welcomed their two children, Nichole and Kevin, into their hearts and home. He was an active part of their lives, coaching them in soccer, cheering them on in all their activities, and having fun on the weekends when he and the kids refereed tournaments together. They took regular family vacations with Joe being a pro at long road trips, often driving them through the night. With a love for animals, there was always a pet around their home.

It has been said that Joe was a man with a million ideas and was always looking for the next opportunity in life. Before he met Vicki, he worked as a Physicians Assistant while also working in real estate and installing carpet and tile on the side. After he was married, he became a medical sales representative of surgical instruments, which caused the couple to move from Florida to Pittsburgh. Joe’s success as a sales rep brought them to Connecticut so he could become an educator in medical sales. Then, Joe and a friend established a sports photography company and being free spirits they moved their company to Colorado so skiing, camping and hiking could occur in their free time. From there, he became a professional speaker and taught seminars on career management, which moved his family back to Florida. It was around that time that Joe allowed God into his heart, and through his leading Joe attended seminary while working as a Surgical Private Assistant at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He then answered a call from Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Auburn, Indiana to be a Senior Pastor. Joe was ordained there, and he later pastored an EPC Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, as well as a Christian Union Church in Garrett, Indiana until his last days. During his time in ministry, he also served as the Director of Shelter Ministries. Retirement didn’t slow Joe down as he enjoyed using his medical knowledge to work as a Pharmacy Tech at CVS. Joe was also especially talented at ministering to those who were grieving. Joe used this gift at Pinnington Funeral Home serving in various roles including Chaplin.

The greatest journey of Joe’s life was his journey to Christ. It began the first time he heard the Lord speak to him while on a run in Pittsburgh when He said, "Stop running from me.” Joe then began going to church and asking questions over the course of several years. Joe heard from the Lord again in Florida while driving down 1-95. He had to pull off the road as he heard, ”Stop fighting me and come home." It was then that Joe decided to go to seminary. He had truly experienced the grace and goodness of the Lord in saving him, and from that point forward Joe dedicated the rest of his life to being a minister of the Gospel.

Second only to his faith was Joe’s family. As each of his kids got married he loved their spouses as if they were his own. He was the best "Pops" who loved on his grandkids, Lucas, Loryn, and Levi in such a special way. Joe loved traveling to Hawaii with his wife, which they did twice. He never wanted to leave their beautiful beaches. He also loved the beaches of Florida as well as the North Carolina mountains. Joe sent his kids to Ridgecrest Summer Camps, a Christian camp in the mountains that he loved and wanted all of his grandkids to be able to share in the same experience.

Life was never boring in Joe’s world. He developed a passion for soccer early in life and went on to play in England and Miami. In fact, he even had a fake plate in his nose because he broke his nose so many times running into the goal post! A knee injury took Joe from playing to refereeing, which he excelled at as he climbed the ranks to become a USSF national referee. Joe continued to ref into his sixties. He got his private pilot's license in 1989 and loved flying. He loved to teach and regularly led Bible studies. He always took every opportunity to speak the Word of God. Joe also loved mentoring people of all ages and all walks of life. He was a board member of the DeKalb County Ministerial Association and was on the Hearten House Committee. He loved to fish with his grandson, Lucas, and he also spent hours captaining the boat out on the lake. Joe knew all kinds of random trivia, earning him the title of "King of Worthless Information." Beyond that, he was incredibly intelligent and considered himself a life-long student. Joe also enjoyed keeping up with current events. He was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Motown music, and he absolutely loved to dance.

In everything he did, Joe Laher put others ahead of himself. He was happy-go-lucky and always had a positive outlook. Even when he learned of his advanced cancer, his faith didn’t waver. Joe always remembered whose he was and who he represented, and he didn't worry about anything else. Every sermon he preached ended with, “You think about that.” He was an amazing conversationalist, and he wasn’t ever afraid to speak his mind. Life will never be the same without Joe here, but those he impacted will proudly carry on his legacy.

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