There are few people who have made such an impact on a community as Statesboro’s Joe Bill Brannon. A passionate member of several civic and service organizations, Brannon was remembered this week by friends and family who mourned his passing Monday.
Known best for his long-time commitment to the Statesboro Food Bank, Brannon cut a wide swath when it came to helping others and forging friendships. At 82, he passed away Monday, June 22, at Willow Pond Senior Care Center, where he resided with wife Sue.
“He was a very fine man,” said James “Bubba” Revell, who fondly recalled how Brannon helped the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Foundation and the sheriff’s office each year around Thanksgiving, making sure families in need had a holiday meal. “He made sure no child was left hungry. He loved his community.”
Brannon had a handful of charities and causes, but he may have been best known for his years heading up the Statesboro Food Bank. “It is my hobby, my life,” he said once as he was being honored for his hard work and dedication.
He volunteered for more than 25 years at the food bank, serving as a former CEO and president. Some may even agree he was the heart of the food bank.
He was also a driving force behind a sister organization, Rebecca’s Café, a community kitchen where those who need a meal can come and eat.
“Joe Bill was instrumental to helping with the café,” said director Jim Bastarache. ”I met him about 10 years ago and with me being from up North, he helped me learn how things were around here.” Brannon was always a vital part of helping the café get food to serve, he said. “We worked in conjunction very well.”
Throughout his years with the food bank, Brannon could always be seen in his blue truck, pulling the Statesboro Food Bank trailer, picking up donations or delivering to those whose pantries were bare. As a former letter carrier, he formed a partnership with the National Letter Carriers Assoiation with the annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive. He also served as the NALC president.
Lions, Kiwanis and more
Brannon spent a lifetime doing for others and being recognized for it, although he did not seek recognition. He preferred working behind the scenes.
Joe Bill was also active in the Bulloch Lions Club, where he was past district governor, past council district chair and Lion of the Year in 2003.
“He was a Lion first,” said fellow Lion Larry Varnedoe. “He was the first person I met when I joined.” Brannon was district governor then, and inspired Vardenoe to succeed and progress in his own journey into leadership in the Lions Club. “He gets people involved and inspired so many people. He was that kind of fellow – our motto is ‘We Serve’ and that was his motto, too.”
Brannon did not limit his efforts to one group. He was also a past member of the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro, a lifelong member of the NAACP (receiving the 2005 NAACP Humanitarian Award), was named the 2008 Red Cross Bulloch County Chapter Volunteer of the Year, and was selected as the Statesboro Rotary Citizen of the Year in 2010.
Brannon was a passionate member of the Statesboro Chapter of the Democratic Party, receiving the 2015 Democratic Civic Engagement Award. He was also a 2008 Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Award recipient and 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree for the program. Brannon was also a Shriner.
Everywhere Brannon went, he made his mark. “We go back a long way,” said Dan Foglio, who also enjoyed Brannon’s volunteerism in the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90. Foglio was also a Lion and Kiwanian along with Brannon.
“He loved that food bank,” he recalled.
“Joe Bill is going to be very much missed. He would do anything you needed - he would give the shirt off his back. I loved the guy.”
Brannon “would help anybody do anything he could,” Revell said.
“He was a fine, fine man.”
No one would go without help when Brannon was around, Varnedoe said, “loved him like a brother.”
Joe Bill, the man
Brannon was born December 1, 1937 in Birmingham, Alabama to John and Josie Stevens Brannon. He lived in Bulloch County most of his life, serving in the United States Air Force in both the Korean and Viet Nam Wars as a radar maintenance technician. After retiring from military service in 1978 as a Master Sergeant with more than 20 years’ service, Brannon started working with the United States Postal Service as a city letter carrier, and also owned and operated B & J Awards in Statesboro.
He is survived by his l wife of 36 years, Sue Whaley Brannon; his sons, Joe Bill Brannon, Jr. (Lisa) and Andy Bailey; his daughters Diane Beasley (Ray), Jodi Williams (Murphy); and Laura Lower (Alan); a brother, Steve Brannon; his sisters, Frederica and Connie; eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
A graveside service and burial will be Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Bulloch Memorial Gardens with Elder Jake Futch officiating.
In lieu of flowers the family requests all memorial donations be made to The Food Bank, Inc. 400 Donnie Simmons Way, Statesboro GA 30458 or through PayPal at statesborofoodbank.org
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.