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Joseph D. Brisben

Iowa City

Joseph D. Brisben of Iowa City, Iowa, passed away unexpectedly in his home on Jan. 27, 2020. Born on Feb. 27, 1941, to John and Olive Brisben in Enid, Okla., Joe was raised amid wheat fields in central Oklahoma, played basketball in high school and went on to attend the University of Chicago. After earning a bachelor of arts in English Language and Literature in 1964, Joe went to work as a reporter for the Chicago City News, a copy reader for the Chicago Tribune and an assistant director of public information at the University of Chicago before relocating to Iowa to work in the field of university public relations. He was the assistant director of university relations for Drake University, during which time Joe received a Master of Arts in English at Drake. Joe went on to become associate director of public information for the University of Iowa from 1977 to 1983. Then, in a mid-life career switch, Joe enjoyed a successful run as a financial planner with Securities Corporation of Iowa and later BDF Investments and subsequently Wells Fargo before retiring in 2012.
A passionate advocate for social justice, Joe was active in numerous civil rights efforts from a young age, including participation in Dr. Martin Luther King's march on Washington in 1963. Joe also was deeply involved in the Unitarian Universalist Society for several decades in both Des Moines and Iowa City. He was instrumental in the fundraising effort to relocate the Unitarian Church from Gilbert Street in Iowa City to a new building in Coralville and served on numerous committees and in leadership positions. Joe also served on the board of directors of the Extend the Dream Foundation, which provides services to the elderly and disabled in Iowa City.
Joe was well known for his energetic and abundant artistic skills and output. A lifelong music lover, he was a talented singer and player of the guitar, banjo, harmonica and several brass instruments. Around Iowa City his "Back Porch Swing" ensemble performed frequently at venues such as the Mill, and he held porch-front sing-alongs while he lived on Clark Street. In addition to writing for newspapers and universities, Joe also was a writer of historical fiction, initially composing short stories that often reflected on his upbringing in Oklahoma. Following retirement Joe wrote and published three novels, "Marvin's Garden," "Skip Day" and "Sweet Lorraine."
Joe is survived by his four children, Erin, Amy, Graham and Adam; and several grandchildren. A ceremony to celebrate Joe's life will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society, 2355 Oakdale Rd., Coralville, on April 4, 2020, at 1 p.m. All are welcome. Instead of flowers and plants, the family requests donations in Joe's honor be made to Extend the Dream Foundation, www.uptownbills.org/extend-the-dream/.
Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service in Iowa City is handling arrangements. www.lensingfuneral.com
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