Beloved father and friend Joseph W. Pajer passed away peacefully in his home in the early morning of
May 8, surrounded by loved ones.
Joseph was born in Berwyn, Illinois, in 1974 as the youngest child of Leo and Agnes Pajer. He spent his
childhood enjoying time with his siblings and close family friends—or “fake” cousins—in the Rocush and
Becker family. The “RPBs” (Rocushes, Pajers, and Beckers) still celebrate holidays together to this day,
spending a weekend almost every year in New Buffalo, Michigan, which continues to be Joseph’s
favorite place in the world.
Throughout his childhood and young adulthood, he was a dedicated member of Sokol Spirit, a
gymnastics and fitness-based organization, along with his siblings Thomas and Kathe. As a young
member, it was clear that fitness, fun, friends and family would play an important role in his life.
After studying Economics and falling in love with the Classics at the University of Illinois, he briefly
returned to Chicago before settling down in Decatur, along with his soon-to-be wife Julienne, who is
now remarried as Julienne Shields. There, he started a family and began to follow his love for fitness by
becoming an instructor at the Decatur Athletic Club, where he met several lifelong friends.
Joseph was an educator, performer, and prankster at heart, often entertaining those taking his fitness
classes by dressing in costume and putting on performances meant to make often-grueling workout
routines a bit more fun—or at least bearable. Outside of the gym, he would entertain coworkers by
pulling pranks and joking with members.
He later continued his love for fitness at the Decatur Indoor Sports Center, where he taught Cardio,
Pilates, and Yoga—occasionally to members of Millikin University athletics teams. Among many of these
students, he became known lovingly—or perhaps notoriously—as “Yoga Joe.”
Joseph also had a great love for musical theatre, and found great joy in volunteering to construct sets
for musicals performed at Garfield Montessori Magnet School, where his children went to school.
Joseph never missed a musical, choral performance, or recital for any of his children.
Always known as an outstanding father, Joseph also cared for all children he knew, often opening the
doors on holidays so his children and their friends could celebrate under his roof.
While Joseph’s sense of humor and love for life will be greatly missed his is survived Athena, Caius, and
Hadrian Pajer—his three equally witty children, and his two siblings; his brother Thomas Pajer and his
children Max and Scarlet Pajer, and his sister Kathe Heetel and her children Jake and Cole Heetel.
A Celebration of Life for friends in Decatur will be held in Joseph’s honor on Saturday, May 14 from 3-6
p.m. in Pavilion #1 in Nelson Park.