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Smile - for Joe

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 4, 2020 1:00 AM

North Idaho is about to be inundated with hundreds of smiles — smiles for Joe Hodl.

The extensive network of Hodl's friends, family and loved ones mourned a great loss when he succumbed to COVID-19 on Aug. 17. He was 64.

But the legacy he left behind is anything but sad.

Hence, the smiles.

On Dec. 12, Joe's longtime physician and friend, Dr. Geoff Emry of Ironwood Family Practice, along with Joe's wife of 38 years, Cheri, are organizing the Smile-4Joe drive-through mask giveaway to provide free masks, specially designed with smiles, to help stop the spread of COVID while spreading the infectious joy for which Joe was known.

"We both know that the first thing out of his mouth would be sarcastic, right?" Cheri said while visiting Emry at his office Wednesday, her eyes grinning above her mask. "But I think he'd think it's wonderful."

The masks are Post Falls High's school colors, black and orange, to represent the 27 years Joe served on the booster club of his hometown high school, 13 of which he served as president. Cheri also works at PFHS.

Words are printed on the dark fabric: friend, supporter, jokester. And in the middle of it all is a bright orange "Smile-4Joe" smile.

Cheri said when the pandemic first started and people complained about wearing masks because they couldn't see each other's smiles, Joe had something to say about it.

"Joe would be the one that would say, 'People smile with their whole face. Just look at their eyes,'" she said. "He thought they were crazy not wearing a mask."

"He said that to me too," Emry said. "That went into the design, that's why it's a smile."

"We're smiling," Cheri said. "Even when we're not."

Emry said the main goal of the event is to give away every mask.

"We just hope people show up. Anyone who wants to drive up on (Dec. 12), we'll make it really easy," he said. "That's all we really want, is just to get these distributed and get people, hopefully, enthusiastic about wearing a mask for a good reason.

"Whether they knew Joe or not, the idea is, I'm doing this for a person and a family that was personally affected by it," he said.

Cheri said she wants Joe's COVID story to be told, because people "don't understand how fast or how close it can hit."

Joe's lungs were healthy when he contracted COVID. Cheri caught it too, in early August. They had similar symptoms, except she didn't experience shortness of breath. Joe coughed for a few days and then came down with a fever, began struggling to breathe and eventually fell on a Thursday night, warranting a 9-1-1 call and emergency hospital treatment.

Early the next morning, he was on a ventilator. By that Monday, doctors told Cheri it was time to say goodbye.

"It was very, very peaceful," she said, "but in a matter of days, he was here and he was gone."

COVID took away a loving husband, dad and grandfather.

"I try to tell people, you have to stop and think," Cheri said. "Look at your family. When you don't want to wear a mask or you don't think this is real, look at your family and take a person out of that picture, suddenly, and try to picture what your life is like. Because it's upside-down."

The Smile-4Joe drive-through mask giveaway will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 12 at Post Falls High School, 2832 E. Poleline Ave., Post Falls. Donations collected will be used to produce more free masks.

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Courtesy photo

Joe Hodl was 64 when he died of COVID-19 on Aug. 17. His wife of 38 years, Cheri, and his physician and longtime friend, Dr. Geoff Emry, are organizing the Smile-4Joe mask giveaway Dec. 12 to help prevent the spread of COVID while spreading the joy for which Joe was so well known.

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

700 of these masks will go out into the community Dec. 12 during the Smile-4Joe drive-through mask giveaway at Post Falls High School in honor of Joe Hodl, longtime Post Falls resident and beloved friend, dad, grandfather and husband who died from COVID in August.