Alumni Profile: Joe King (’90)


March 16, 2020

Not many people know the life story of Mr. Joseph P. King, but it sure is an interesting one to tell. He is an Erie native who attended and graduated from Cathedral Prep as a member of the class of 1990. His two brothers also attended Prep, and graduated as members of the class of 1991 and class of 1992, respectively.

King, while at Prep, played basketball and baseball. He was on the varsity baseball team for three years. He has a family that consists of his two sons, one stepson, and a wife of 25 years. His life has constantly consisted of difficulties and challenges, yet he has always overcome them. From his problems in his early life to his military endeavors, and now the challenge he faces in the present, King has surmounted all the barriers and curveballs that life has thrown at him.

King was born and raised in Erie, Pa., along with this two younger brothers, Mike and Gary. After graduating from Cathedral Prep, he went on to play baseball for Gannon University. Unfortunately, his priorities weren’t straightened out, and he failed his first two years and lost all of his athletic and ROTC scholarships. It seemed as if enlisting in the army was his only option after that, so that’s exactly what he did. His education didn’t continue until years later. He came to find out that his lack of educational discipline during this time would be his biggest regret. After he served his time in enlistment, he realized he wanted to continue to be part of something that wasn’t just for himself. This aspect, as well as the events of 9/11, motivated him to rejoin but go through officer’s school so he could lead soldiers. After this, he never looked back and ended up finishing his education at the prestigious school of Carnegie Mellon and continuing his career as a soldier.

Life as a soldier has allowed King to see the worst in humanity, and he has worked through some treacherous conditions. Gathering up the strength to get through boot camp, where he couldn’t shower or sleep for days at a time, was hard, but it wasn’t the biggest challenge he would be confronted with. His largest problems were during the times when he was at combat, especially when he was separated from his family for months at a time. Being surrounded by the deaths of innocent people and the brothers he was supposed to protect right in front of him takes a toll on a soldier’s mental state that can never be restored. The long and grueling work hours that his military career demanded were a process in itself, but the PTSD he gained from his combat experiences made it that much worse.

King resolved these personal and professional problems by focusing on his team and the end goal, further developing his leadership abilities, and focusing on aspects that he could control, as well as keeping the focus on helping others rather than himself. He personally surmounted these problems by never giving up, treating each day as a new one, and having faith and trust in his abilities. Even with all the endeavors in the military, he still feels that this career was rewarding. The job created opportunities that would have previously been nonexistent. He was able to travel the world and create a successful life for himself because he joined the army. His proudest achievement even today is still serving his country for more than 20 years with his family at his side. He believes that career was his calling in life, and he still misses the lifestyle even today.

The death of King’s brother Gary, who was his best friend, made it hard for him to continue on in life with such tremendous strides. Gary was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a young age, and it only got worse as he got older. Eventually, his brother’s fight against the disorder ended, and he passed away.

“This occurred about seven years ago,” said senior Cade King, Joe’s son. “But I remember it as if it happened yesterday. It was one of the lowest points in my father’s life, yet he still found a way to persevere through this dark time.”

In more recent years, King was faced with another challenge. This one was a confrontation between him and one of his higher ups, who had harassed and bullied his soldiers, destroyed morale, and was an overall poor leader. Joe wrestled with his morale but knew he had to blow the whistle and reveal this man’s failures to the authorities above him. Challenging a person higher in rank than him was a difficult task, and, in turn, it almost cost him his job. He struggled for two-and-a-half years to continue on facing the same person every day. However, in the end his challenge resolved with that man losing his job in the military and Joe gaining the recognition and treatment he so deserved. This goes to show that buckling down in times of despair will reward a person later on in life.

Today, King is a successful business owner, which he credits to the discipline he gained in the military. He states that numerous people such as coaches, leaders in the military, his late brother Gary, his wife who stuck by his side during hard times, and his children when they are working hard, have inspired him throughout his life. He explains how it’s a team of individuals who has inspired him and not just one person. Furthermore, his advice for people that look up to him is that they have no substitution for hard work, and that anyone, no matter what, can achieve the goals they desire as long as they have a happiness for life, never settle, and are selfless for others. He says that it is never too late to start working to achieve your goals. King says that people must compartmentalize and need to place all their focus on their professional work when it’s time, and then they need to do the same when it’s time for personal work.

When it comes to life today, King’s average day is basically just appreciating that he is alive. He lives every day to its fullest potential looking forward to the gifts of tomorrow and the future. He feels that he has reached the success he’s desired but yearns to continue his growth and further provide a better life for his family and himself. King explains that he appreciates even the smallest things in life because he has seen the worst. By doing so, he is ensuring more success in the future. Finally, King feels as if he’s stable in life but not to the point where he wants to finish. He is proud to the point that he’s comfortable with the position he’s in physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially, but he wants to continue to make a more successful life for himself.

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