Joliet man found adventure in life's simplicity
Joe Baltz and Marie Pierre Baltz fell in love on Thanksgiving Day 1973. Marie Pierre, then 28, was teaching at a Montessori school in Joliet as part of a cultural exchange program.
One of Joe’s sisters, who had children attending the school and was preparing to become a teacher, invited Marie Pierre to dinner with the family, Marie Pierre said.
Joe, then 27, had just returned from backpacking trip to Black Hills in South Dakota, retracing the steps of his great-uncle who claimed a piece of land at the turn of the 20th century and then dug for gold.
“Being French, I was definitely, for him, a sign of adventure,” Marie Pierre said. “And that’s what Joe had in him. He loved adventure. He loved things that were out of the box and whatever he felt he needed to explore.”
They married in June 1976 and opened their own Montessori school, which they ran for five years before selling it. During that time, the couple had two children, Emilie and Timothe, and Joe began acting.
His obituary said he toured with the Goodman Theatre and several other productions, including his own one-man show about his favorite poet, Robert Service.
Joe eventually returned to Joliet, which he loved, and to his family’s business, the Meade Baltz paint store, which closed in 2016.
Later, Joe opened the Jewel Frame Shop, which had four locations in its lifetime – across the street from the former F.E Marsh School in downtown Joliet, by six corners and in two places on Jefferson Street, Marie Pierre said. He and Marie Pierre ran the shop for 20 years.
“What he wanted to do was establish a relationship with the customer,” Marie Pierre said.
“He was able to produce some things for them and spent time thinking about it, to the point that he spent way too many hours for what he made, but that was his goal. He wanted the customer to feel good leaving the store.”
In 2000, Joe turned his photography hobby into a teaching career at Joliet Central High School, Marie Pierre said. He taught the students more than the technical aspects of photography.
He taught them how to use photography to communicate, she said.
“He just loved it,” she said. “Being an artist, he used photography to explore his own artistic nature, his love for details and his love for everything. There wasn’t anything Joe wasn’t interested in.”
Joe Baltz of Joliet died on Nov. 4 at age 71.
• To feature someone in "An Extraordinary Life," contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or email@example.com.