Sophomore Joe Spradlin, 19, took his life Monday morning in his Atlanta home. Spradlin, remembered by friends for his kind heart, southern hospitality and sense of humor, had grappled with bouts of depression in recent months and was home seeking help, friends said.
More than 15 friends traveled to Atlanta Wednesday to attend his memorial service Thursday.
Friends describe the man they knew as “Good Times Joe” as a lovable person who could sneak a smile from anyone. They remember his jovial demeanor and ability to listen.
“He was just an unbelievably big teddy bear,” close friend Emily Rosenberg said, recalling his large frame, bushy hair and beard.
Spradlin had a passion for music, playing drums and bongos whenever he got the chance. He played in a band with a hometown friend and his father, who plays bass guitar. Friends called him “the radio” because he was constantly drumming, singing, talking and joking.
“Everywhere he went the party followed,” said Rosenberg, who recalls meeting Spradlin at the beginning of her freshman year.
Friends also remember the advice Spradlin offered. While he did not enjoy classes at GW, often skipping them to stay home, he valued a tight-knit group of friends like family.
“If you were ever sad or mad about something, he was the one who could make you feel better,” sophomore Ven Mothker said.
“He had the biggest heart, and he was just there for me,” said sophomore Jamie Stern. “When I needed him, I knew he would be there for me.”
Spradlin did not return to school after Thanksgiving break because he decided to stay home to work out personal problems, friends said. He gained the courage to discuss problems with his family, friends said, and returned to school Dec. 1 to take his possessions home.
“He didn’t want to leave us, but he didn’t want to be in college,” Mothker said.
But friends who saw the sophomore on his last visit to GW said they saw a different person. Sophomore Amy Lebow said Spradlin seemed to have “the life sucked out of him.”
He gathered his things with his dad, gave friends back borrowed items along with many hugs, then asked to share one last cigarette before he left. And with one final hug, Spradlin was gone.
Days later, Spradlin was found dead in his bedroom. His mother had heard the gunshot, a friend who talked to her said.
The death is a mystery to friends, who said the almost always smiling Spradlin had accepted his problems and was on his way to helping himself. Friends said he began therapy weeks earlier but did not go consistently. They said he had anti-depressants as early as this summer but did not take them.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t know Joe had problems,” Libow said. “Everyone has problems. It never occurred to me that he would ever do something like this.”
While he had done “not so healthy things” to help himself throughout the semester, Rosenberg said, he was ready to turn his problems around.
“He was long on his way to getting back to a calm and normal set of mind,” Rosenberg said. “He went down there to take care of himself . He just gave up.”
Friends said Spradlin was close to his family. He talked to his 14-year-old sister Alli on the phone and often brought friends home to meet his parents.
Rosenberg describes him as smart and “just one of those guys who
pulled through. He always took care of it,” she said.
He enjoyed poetry and a wide variety of music from Less Than Jake to the Allman Brothers to Jefferson Airplane. He read books and would stay up all night talking to friends.
Friends of Spradlin have stuck together, contacting the family and staying up laughing and crying over memories. They said his problems were largely “camouflaged,” and they will miss a friend they love.
To other students who might know people in similar situations as Spradlin, friends offer advice gained through a painful experience:
“Just appreciate everyone around you, because you don’t know all the
demons they might have inside,” Lebow said.