Joseph Elden Cullen

24 February 1940 - 12 February 2024

Under: Obituary
Joseph Elden Cullen

Joseph Elden Cullen was born on February 24, 1940 to Laurence 'Tut' Elden Cullen and Edna Talbott Cullen in Ronan, Montana. He was the third of their four children (Paul, Virginia, Joe and Carol) and lived in the Mission Valley, Montana area until he went to Army Boot Camp after high school graduation in 1958. Daily life included working hard with his family on their family ranch. Schooling provided the opportunity to grow and thrive in leadership in academics, football, drama and band as a trumpet player. He also co-edited his senior yearbook with his high school sweetheart, Linda Heppner. While in the Army Reserves, Joe enrolled and attended Carroll College in Helena, Montana. After Linda's graduation from nursing school in Missoula, Montana, the couple married in Polson, Montana on August 26, 1961. Together they had four children between 1962 and 1976; Jodie Lynn, Laureen Kim, Tamara Jean and Shawn Elden. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in 1963, Joe continued to Physical Therapy (PT) School in Denver, Colorado. He landed his first PT job in Billings, Montana. He would continue in this field throughout his working life. It was truly a calling that kept him interested in the body, healing, helping and serving people. Joe worked for and managed the PT departments in hospitals in Billings, Montana, Ottumwa, Iowa, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (for ARAMCO), Colorado Springs, Colorado and Pueblo, Colorado and then back to Helena, Montana where he opened his own PT private practice. His final hospital practice took him to Olney, Texas. Finishing his career, he provided PT home health in the Wichita Falls, Texas area.

Along the way, Joe obtained his ministerial lay pastor license through the Disciples of Christ Church and began to lead small congregations in Olney, Texas and then Archer City, Texas. Joe gave his life to Christ as a young dad who wanted to make changes in his life, confessing his sin and looking to only One who could pay for his sin. Joe believed in Jesus' finished work on the cross, coming to faith after repenting for his sins during a highway trip to buy some cigarettes and began trusting Jesus to lead his life and not himself any longer. Those who knew Joe, can attest to his gift of sharing this good news of the gospel to anyone who would listen. He spent many hours learning and leading others in the way of the Lord the best way he knew. Those closest also knew that Joe would continue to release his life to the Lord after times of trying to take back control of his own way. This process of growing in the image of Jesus was a familiar struggle as with all following the way of Jesus, fighting against the world, the enemy and our own selfish desires. But God, being rich in mercy, knows our heart like no one else and we can utterly trust Him in everything. Joe never lost the hope in this promise for his life and family.

Obvious from Joe's work experiences and home locations, he loved change. He would change jobs for various reasons and seemed to thrive with the challenge of learning about a new place and meeting the people in those places. He would get involved quickly, serving people in church, singing in the choirs and tracking down the Barbershop chorus in the area. Joe's love of singing Barbershop music began while living in Ottumwa, Iowa, singing in quartets in Ottumwa and also in Saudi Arabia. He continued meeting other men through Barbershop groups in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Pueblo, Colorado and Olney, Texas. Family road trips led by Joe and Linda included the audible entertainment of the cassette player complete with many tapes, including those of Barbershop music - much to the chagrin of Jodie and Laurie! His girls also endured trying to go to sleep in their bedroom on Thursday evenings to the sounds of four men working out the intricate Barbershop harmonies, not far from the living room rehearsal area. Cassettes turned into CDs and his continued interest in Barbershop music would lead to an occasional trip to a small Texas town to hear a chorus and quartet perform.

Joe's love for travel cannot be overstated. Living overseas for six years afforded that opportunity. He and Linda traveled to Greece, several European countries, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, China and Thailand all while living in the Middle East. His children also saw the world at young ages. He and Linda enjoyed becoming grandparents as well to 9 grandchildren between 1988 and 2011. Graduations, weddings, births, holidays and family events were other reasons for travel. The Cullen family has learned to make trips happen as family members were able. As he ripened with age, Joe longed for the roots of his childhood home. His last visit to Montana was in 2018 for a family reunion at the ranch in which he grew up. His remains will be buried in a beautiful, small cemetery at the base of the mountains in Ronan, Montana.

Growing up in rural Montana planted a love of being outdoors when Joe wasn't working. He loved fishing and would find those spots to fish wherever he lived. Fish frys would accompany a good day of bringing in the fish, especially while spending time in Montana. Joe also liked to camp, tenting in the early days and then with a camper in the latter years. He also enjoyed downhill skiing until his body told him, "no more" while living in Colorado. These activities were life giving to him and doing them with his family was a joy in his life.

Joe's greatest challenge came in the 2000's with the diagnosis of Alzheimer 's disease for Linda. It was a slow and steady decline in her health until her death in 2010. Throughout the years he was her caregiver and remained faithful to her needs, including placing her in the wonderful Alzheimer's facility in Wichita Falls, Texas.

While providing service at a personal level was high calling on Joe's life, he also pursued service of others with his church family, his neighborhoods and of significant importance was his time spent in community with the International Lions Clubs. He served in various officer roles and traveled to Lions meetings near and far. Most notably, Joe was blessed to find another one to love and live with in his remaining years. LaDonna Mincey and Joe married on June 25, 2011.

LaDonna and Joe travelled to Montana, Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan and made roads trips to North Carolina, cruised in the Northeast including Canada and Nova Scotia, also visiting Haiti, Jamaica and Belize. They always loved a good meal and spent time watching every kind of sport, from young great-grandkids in soccer to high school grandkids in sports (and marching band) to college games in Wichita Falls to televised college games - go TCU! Professional basketball and football were also a highlight on the TV for Joe, ever the Denver Broncos fan! Small dogs were familiar company for Joe and LaDonna, most recently with sweet little Norman who cuddled on Joe's chair during the recent Superbowl and will miss naps with and friendly scratches from Joe.

Even as his mobility began to be challenged, LaDonna was a supportive wife and partner to help Joe in the journey. She navigated with selflessness and poise the rough terrain of failing health, even with her own struggles with health, until the very end. They found joy in the simple things and Joe learned once again to give into the Lord and allow the woman He provided for him to take the leadership in tasks and everyday life. The last face he saw on this earth was her beautiful face caring for him in Amarillo, Texas where they had lived since 2018.

Joe Cullen is survived by his wife, LaDonna Mincey Cullen; sisters, Virginia Cullen Miller and Carol Cullen Bryant; brothers-in-law, Danny (Sue) Heppner and Floyd Parkey; sisters-in-law, Cathy (Gene) Jarvis and Tanna Avenius; children, Jodie (Steve) Cullen White, Laurie (Chelle Draper) Cullen, Tamara Cullen, Shawn (Rebecca) Cullen; grandchildren, Nicholas (Deborah Ann) White, Hannah (Jacob) Hamalian, Lydia (Les) Jacob, Emma (Michael) Pitts, May Taylor, Tyler Tidwell, Abilyn Tidwell, Noah Cullen, Kalyn Cullen and great grandchildren; Evelyn Pearson and Junia Hamalian. Also LaDonna's children, Scott (Kendra) Guerry, Kevin (Shelly) Mincey, Curt (Alicia) Mincey; grandchildren, Samantha (Justin) Griffith, Jimmy (Tiffany) Guerry, Tegan Guerry, Angelo Mincey, Kristopher Mincey, Serena Mincey, Caden Mincey, Talon Mincey; great grandchildren, Piper Griffith, Killian Griffith and Jimmy Jr. Guerry. In addition; many nieces and nephews and their families by blood and by marriage.

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