As I was beginning to choose the animal sculptures for this project in 2015, I met a woman from Wisconsin who was visiting the Carousel of Happiness. She asked what my next project would be, and I told her about the Council of Kindness. She told me about a friend who was paralyzed with a terminal illness. She told me that wolves were his spirit animal and could the first animal in this council be a grey wolf. As I progressed in the carving, I made a small box which would fit in the wolf’s chest cavity. I mailed it to her and asked her to have her friend define items and words about the importance of wolves. I asked her to fill the box with these things and then seal it and send it back to me. Today, the wolf has Joe within him. Perhaps Joe is now his spirit animal.
Joseph Schulz & The Grey Wolf
By Diane Miller
I met Joe in the winter of 2012-2013 when I was suffering from PTSD. At the time, I was a single mom raising 2 teenage girls and the trauma I had recently experienced left me numb and unable to work or participate in life. Joe was a man of energy, strength and humor. He truly was a lover of life. Our friendship was instant and authentic. My daughters and their friends quickly “adopted” Joe as their uncle. They would swim in his lake, kayak, play games, camp and sing. He appreciated their joy and energy. I appreciated a friend who forced me out of the house to hike in the woods, grilled food for me when I could not taste food and paddled our canoe when I couldn’t hear the birds or feel the air on my face.
Shortly after I started treatment for my PTSD (to come back to life), Joe began to show signs of neurological problems; weakness in his hands, slight limping. Mostly, his inability to grip a softball bat as he always did (he was an amazing softball and volleyball player and well known for this in his community of Oconomowoc Wisconsin).
After several months of increased symptoms, I convinced Joe to see a neurologist. We went together, and I recall thinking I had a chance to help him with something, after all he did for me. Unfortunately, the doctor quickly gave him his diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease).
For the next couple years, ALS took away Joe’s ability to run, walk, use his hands and eventually speak. At the same time, the “Gleason Act” needed approval through the House and Senate. It was held up even though it could provide funding for tens of thousands of people with paralysis who needed SGDs (Speech Generating Devices). SGDs allow people to write, speak, connect/socialize, play music - the ability to LIVE while confined to a chair or bed.
Joe was angry about the limitations and lack of availability of this technology for those who needed it most. One day, as he was venting his frustrations, I asked him what we could do about it. 2 days later, he showed me the letter he wrote (with his eyes) to his local representative. The letter was sent, an appointment was set, and within months Representative Ryan presented the Gleason Act to Congress as he referred to his meeting with Joe. In the summer of 2015, with the support of many, the legislation headed to the President and became law. Joe told me (through his SGD device) that he believed ALS became a part of his life, so he could have an impact on this new law.
As ALS robbed Joe of his ability to breathe in 2015-2016, we planned his “memorial”. A wolf in the mountains. The wolf was his spirit animal. Even his Harley (that he auctioned off at a fundraiser) had a wolf painted on it. He found a picture of a wolf that reminded him of his dogs. One of strength and peace. He gave me the picture and it was used in the design of this wooden grey wolf.
When I asked Joe what the wolf should mean to those who share moments with it, he communicated with his eyes:
Independence and intuition.
Loyalty to your pack (loved ones).
Living life powerfully and with passion.
The wolf is also a strong communicator that uses his eyes to do so (just like the SGD device).
Joe passed on September 7, 2016. He touched many lives and will continue to do so for a very long time. He would want his wolf to bring peace and strength to others.