A fan of baroque music and the blues, Albert Camus and Monty Python, Joseph has lived uncompromisingly on his own terms. The independent and strong-willed youngest of five children, Joseph grew up in comfortable Longmeadow, near Springfield, Massachusetts, and at the family beach house in Groton Long Point, Connecticut, where he enjoyed sailing as a young man. He lost his mother, Jenny, to cancer when he was nine and became close to his stepmother, Marcelle, a French-Canadian woman who planted the seeds that would gestate into a love for France later in life.
He attended several boarding schools and then Columbia University, where he joined in anti-war demonstrations and the general political tumult of 1968, protesting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year. In 1970, after a year’s suspension for occupying an administration building, he graduated from university and moved home but didn’t stay long. Rather than go to work for his father, Joseph set off on an adventure, first to Europe then Morocco. He hitchhiked across the Sahara, through Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, where he visited the ancient city of Timbuktu. Joseph moved to Rome, where he learnt Italian and taught English, then to Aix-en- Provence in the south of France where he became fluent in French and taught for several years before returning to the U.S. to get two master’s - in Applied Linguistics and in Education.
In Rome he had met a roommate’s sister, an Englishwoman named Elizabeth, with whom he became close friends. In the 1980's he bought a house in southern France and split his time between there and the U.S. while developing an EFL teaching method called “Your Life in Your Hands.” He and Elizabeth grew closer and eventually married, settling in the Provencal village of Lourmarin, an old town of tightly-packed ochre houses and narrow, winding medieval streets nestled into the hills of the Luberon. In this quiet and picturesque village in southern France Joseph’s keen appreciation for art and beauty flourished. He took up intricate sculpting in bone china and read deeply, mainly non-fiction. A lone wolf for much of his life, he had several close French friends, such as Jean-Marc, Alain, Jean-Luc and Christian. He and Elizabeth had two children, Claire and Pierre, and together renovated an old farmhouse into a luxury vacation rental retreat they called “Les Olivettes,” each detail of its gardens and luxuriant apartments an expression of Joseph’s cultivated aesthetic vision.