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The single most difficult thing any parent can endure is the loss of a child.
When Joe and Sissy (Catherine) King of Millville learned that their only son had died suddenly they were devastated.
Joey King was living in Ontario when the couple received the news that their son had passed. He was 22 years old.
Sissy King said his death was a shock and she didn’t know how she would get through it.
“When my son Joey died in 2002 it seemed like I would never get over it. It was so hard. No one ever thinks that they will lose their child, Joey was my only child.
“I was fortunate to have the support of my husband Joe. We leaned on each other and managed to get through things one day at a time. You never really get over something like that, you just learned how to live with it.”
Joe and Sissy both worked for Eyking Farms. They wanted to do something to honour the memory of their son. There was a pumpkin festival held in Millville every October and they decided they would grow a giant pumpkin and show it at the festival.
“Joe had never grown a large pumpkin before so there was a lot for him to learn. He did his research, we were surprised at how much was involved.”
The Kings yield that first year wasn’t great, their pumpkin grew a modest 342 lb.
Sissy King said it was the first time they grew a giant pumpkin and they were pleased with the results.
“We weren’t looking to win any prizes, we just wanted to do something to remember Joey.”
The Kings continued to honour their son with a giant pumpkin each year and each year their pumpkin grew larger and larger.
Tragedy struck again in October 2016 when Joe King died suddenly after complications from surgery. He was 58.
“Losing my son Joey was devastating. I never really got over it, but when my husband died suddenly, I wasn’t sure I would be able to go on.”
King credits support from her family and members of the Eyking family for helping her get through the most difficult time of her life.
Joe worked with the Eykings for many years and he was a big part of the farming operation. He was well respected and loved by the people with whom he worked.
“Joe loved working for the Eykings, they were very good to him. Everybody loved Joe, he was very pleasant and kind-hearted. He would do whatever he could to help other people and would work day and night if that is what he needed to do.
“Joe was a great husband, we were very close. We liked to take rides on our motorcycle after work and on Sundays we would take our dogs, Maxi and Xena, for a drive.
“I think about my son every day and I think about my husband every day. Some days are still very difficult for me, but I am fortunate to still work at the farm and I really enjoy my job. I like spending time with my co-workers, it helps make things a little easier.”
In 2017, Joe King Sr. was remembered for his work in the community and the kindness he showed others, when the Millville Pumpkin Festival was renamed in his memory and is now the Joe King Memorial Pumpkin Festival.
“I was happy to hear that the executive at the Millville Community Centre wanted to rename the festival in Joe’s memory. I think it is a very nice way to show how much he meant to the people of Millville. I know it would mean a lot to Joe.”
Since Joe’s passing, there have been no entries of giant pumpkins in Joey King’s memory. King said the task of growing a giant pumpkin on her own would be too difficult without help from her husband. However, she said having the festival named in his dad’s honour is like honouring Joey as well.
As a means of dealing with the incredible loss she has suffered, King tries each day to focus on the things for which she is thankful. Much like her late husband Joe, she too is a kind-hearted and generous person. Despite what she has been through herself, King goes out of her way to brighten the day of those closest to her.
Sherry Mulley MacDonald is an author and freelance journalist. She is a lifelong resident of the Northside with an affection for the community in which she lives.