In Joe, We Trust

“Me? What’s so special about me?” Joe Lynam, safety guard at the Monmouth University Library asked as the corners of his mouth turned upward. He was in a perfectly pressed police uniform with a gold name plate reading “Joe” on the left side. His white mustache lifted into a grin; he was wondering why I would want to interview him.

As I tried to explain myself, Joe’s attention was interrupted a few times with students entering and leaving the library, greeting him with huge smiles and waves. They don’t even know his name; he’s just the person who creates students’ first smiles before studying and more importantly, the last smiles before leaving. After all, studying and libraries can be a pretty traumatizing experience, so smiles are very much needed.

Joe realized I was struggling to get my sentences out in between greetings, so he compromised, “Let’s go sit in that room so we can talk, how’s that?”


I took a deep breath to prepare to get my words out in one shot, in case any one of Joe’s silent fan club members made an appearance.

“So anyway,” I said with an exhale and a smile. “Here’s your answer on why I picked you.”

I asked him if he remembered when It down-poured and thunder-stormed a few weeks ago. Yes, he did. I explained that I was having a bad day, especially because I wore slippers and they were totally soaked. Leaving the library, my head was down glaring at my sad excuse for shoes. The nameless safety guard with a white mustache in a police uniform tapped me on the shoulder and pointed into the distance. It was a rainbow. This small act turned my whole day around.

“And, well, yeah, that’s why!” I told him. Joe’s grin turned into a full grown smile and held his hand out waiting for mine to interlock with his, “Well then, how about that. Let’s get started.”

Joe started working at Monmouth in 2010. As a retired police officer, he got bored of sitting around the house after being so active as a cop. So, he decided to apply at Monmouth University as a safety officer. He started off “working in the parking lot.”

Shy and definetly modest, I had to dig deep into Joe’s clean-cut responses.

The parking lot? Like, driving the police car?

“No, no. I was in the booth,” Joe clarified. “I directed people and checked their parking passes. I heard there was an opening here at the library, applied, and got the job.”

What’s your typical day like?

“Hm, I run errands and have lunch before I come into work. I work 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.”

So you work the night shift. Have you ever seen a ghost?

“I have not, but I have heard stories about a ghost in a nightgown.”

What’s the best part of your job?

“Seeing the students, definitely. They’re the best part of my day”

The worst part?

“Working extended hours during finals. I don’t leave ‘til 2 a.m.”

Does your wife miss you when you head to work for the night?

“No, not really. I’ve had these hours a couple years now.”

Did you live local?

“Yes, good ol’ long branch.” Joe Replied.

Did you always?

I nonchalantly crossed off my list of questions titled ICEBREAKERS. The ice was far from being broken. I started to get discouraged. Where’s this “big story” Professor Morano promised that all “small” people had?

“Well,” Joe corrected himself. “Not always. I actually grew up in Ireland.”

I took a mental sigh of relief.

Joe continued his autobiography. “When I was four, my dad moved our family from Ireland to come here to pursue that whole ‘American Dream’ thing. But I moved back when I was 7. My dad tried to join the union but they told him, ‘no mics allowed’.” Mix? Like, M-I-X? “No, M-I-C-S, a nickname for Irish People.”

Perseverance led his father to bring his family, consisting of his mother and four younger brothers and sisters, back to America a few years later. As a result of a successful journey, they found their home right here in Long Branch, the West End to be exact.

“As a kid, everything was pretty normal,” Joe explained. “I had a paper route and before Pier Village was there, there was a boardwalk, and I used to surf right around there.”

“Anyways, when I went here,” Joe started to talk, but I interrupted. Here? Like, You were a student Monmouth?

“Yes! I certainly was, but I majored in partying,” Joe laughed. “I didn’t graduate. But I met my wife here. She graduated and majored in education.” Then he just said there in silence and folded his hands, waiting politely for another question.

When Joe had stopped going to college, he went to the academy and became a Long Branch police officer. He daily route would have him patrol near Monmouth University.

He and his wife met by chance when he was on duty and she was near her on-campus apartment. His wife was about 21 and Joe was about 25. It was love at first sight. They got married in 1981 and have been together ever since. “That’s a long time to be married,” Joe commented with a chuckle. “You can do the math I’m sure.” I took my phone out and pressed the calculator app. I politely brought my phone to the side of my leg to hide that I was using it. My thumb worked while my eye contact with Joe remained.

2017 minus 1981… equal sign…36 years!

I paused to write down the clean and simple Lynam love story. While I quickly jotted down my thoughts, I glanced up and noticed Joe turn his head to look back in the direction of his desk; his urge to get back to his territory was written all over his face. The library was silent. The probability of danger or disruption in that moment was probably impossible, but for Joe, that was far from reassurance.

I put my hand out and thanked Joe; He probably didn’t expect to be kept this long. His put his hand in mind to complete the handshake. “No, thank YOU!” He said with his genuine smile.

Students started to enter and spotted their friend; they all greeted Joe with a wave and a smile and he returned the gesture.

Edie Hetzel, a circulation receptionist at the library, works with Joe every night and notices the relationship he has with the students. “He is so talkative and friendly,” Hetzel said. “He really talks to the kids and has developed rapport with a lot of them.”

Joe returned back to his battle station where his body faced the entrance, ready for whoever or whatever entered the double doors. Monmouth University Library: In Joe, We Trust.