If you attended the Peking Duck dinners I used to organize in Beijing you most likely were left with a strong impression of one attendee, Joseph Bosco, the mustachioed professor who wore the big white hat and talked with a debonair Southern accent; the one who could effortlessly spin yarns and entertain, and who always seemed to have an interesting perspective on any issue that arose.
The last time I saw him was nearly a year ago to the day, at my farewell party in Beijing. He was looking frail but in his usual good spirits. I spoke with him on the phone just a few days ago, and I was not surprised to learn tonight that he’s gone.
Joe’s blog used to be one of my favorite reads. He was an old-school liberal and a man of the people. When I contacted him in 2003 and asked if he could do me the huge favor of meeting for one hour a week with a good friend of mine from the countryside to help him improve his English, Joe didn’t hesitate. I can never forget his generosity. He changed that young man’s life and gave him a strong sense of pride and dignity.
Joe was a character; no one I know had so much “personality,” and I mean that in a good way. He wasn’t perfect (who is?), and watching things get worse for him over the past few years was a sad thing. I encouraged him to write some columns for the Global Times, which he did very well, but then his health issues made that impossible.
More than anything else, this blog ushered into my life an entire cast of characters so remarkable and so wonderful I have to consider myself blessed. Some disappointed me, some exceeded my wildest expectations in terms of generosity and kindness. Joseph was at the very top of that list of extraordinary people. I’ve never met anyone like him, and never will again.
Even with his issues, Joe was always one of the good guys. He changed my outlook on the world and he inspired me. I’m sorry he is no longer with us, and I hope that after years of sickness and pain he is finally at peace.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.