My friend Joseph Bosco has passed away

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.

The Discussion: 23 Comments

I am so deeply sorry to hear of the passing of your cherished friend. Our lives are colored by the people who move through it. Joe has certainly registered his indelible markings. You are in my thoughts old friend…

July 9, 2010 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

Thanks John.

July 9, 2010 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

I only met Joseph a few times but he was a unique individual. The world is less rich with his passing.

July 9, 2010 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

Hum sorry to hear that

July 9, 2010 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

I would have liked your friend. Your tribute to him was beautiful. So sad when a good friend leaves this world. — barbara

July 9, 2010 @ 9:24 pm | Comment

My condolences.

July 10, 2010 @ 12:27 am | Comment

So sorry to read about Joseph’s passing. I had a delightful chat with him at your going-away party last year, and had no idea that he was in poor health. This was a very kind tribute to him.

July 10, 2010 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Thanks Kaiser. I was amazed that he showed up that night; he told me it was his first night out of his apartment for something like half a year. And even then, he was his charming, story-telling self. I miss him.

July 10, 2010 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

He sounds a fine man. Reading his blog for the first time, I was struck by the sense that this was a cultured and decent man, but one whose life was one imbued with personal sadness and regret.

July 11, 2010 @ 11:46 am | Comment

Sad… The first moment I met Joe I knew we would be friends. I am so sad to hear about his passing. We exchanged many long emails over the years. Both being from the South (US) we had many, many things in common… He was so very, very proud of his grandson…
Joe had a poem on his website that he wrote when he was 19 years old.

I spent several weeks translating it (poorly) into Chinese. Joe posted it on his blog here.

Being self-taught in Chinese, I was not satisfied with it and sent it to another long-time expat in China who is also a college professor. He had his Chinese class translate it, using the Joe’s original, and my poor translation.

I present all three versions below. Rest in peace Joe… Rest in peace.

———————-by Joseph Bosco—————–

Would you forgive me
could you forget it
Would you hold it against me
if I did?
I’m tired
I’ve seen too much
and too much I’ve seen
I have also felt
And too much I’ve felt
brought little joy
and too much joy
was only an illusion
of lost salvation
And too many illusions
brought only pain
and too much pain
was self inflicted
if you could forgive
and hold no grudge
I’ll ask your permission
to quit

My extreme thanks to Jasmine and her professor Lonnie for this translation:






July 11, 2010 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

CORECTION: Joe did not write that when he was 19. His statement was that he had been published since 19, but that this was the first time any of his work had been translated.

Will miss him…

July 11, 2010 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee…”

July 11, 2010 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

Thanks for that, Admiral. That’s the other thing I liked about those dinners – that people would meet and become friends, sometimes for life. I even know of commenters who met on this site and went on to get married. Now I’m going to get all nostalgic….

July 11, 2010 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

RI the P that you never knew, except for brief moments that I was fortunate to share, in life. Joseph. Nobody who met you would ever forget you and I believe you would be happy with that epitaph.

I would like to acknowledge the caring support of Richard and Ben which has consoled me immeasurably.

July 12, 2010 @ 12:43 am | Comment

i’m shocked to hear the news. professor bosco was a dear friend and mentor. we used to work on some english language drama programs together. i always enjoyed talking with him. he had had a rough few years, having had a back surgery last year and a heart breaking experience. the last time i spoke to him was, regrettably, the end of last year. he told me he was trying to cope. i’ve always wanted to visit him but never did. and now it’s too late.
he’d had a rich life, having tried almost every profession and achieved certain level of success in almost every attempt he made.
condolences to his family. and i mourn his passing away as a former student and friend.

July 12, 2010 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Sorry to hear this news, and condolences to those that knew JB. I personally did not, but was further drawn to China through his blog (as well as this one).

A sad loss.


July 14, 2010 @ 1:24 pm | Comment


The Senate just passed Wall Street reform. The bill will become law the moment President Obama signs it.

This reform represents the boldest financial regulations since the aftermath of the Great Depression — and the strongest consumer protections in history.

Every door you knocked in Iowa, every phone call you made in Ohio, every dollar you dug deep to give — it’s all for this. The Recovery Act, health reform, and now Wall Street reform, on top of everything else. In a year and a half, this administration has made bigger, bolder progress than any president’s in decades.

We have a president who fights for all of us, every day. We have you, the best organizers this country has ever seen, who flooded Congress with calls and letters, had millions of conversations with friends and neighbors, went toe-to-toe with the country’s most powerful special interests — and won.

And we have members of Congress who bravely stood with the President, even as right-wing groups have pledged $200 million to defeat them in November’s elections.

First, take a moment to celebrate. This is an achievement that will make American lives better and protect our economy for generations to come, and it absolutely wouldn’t have happened without you.

Then, take a moment to thank the members of Congress who stood with us and supported these landmark reforms. In the coming days, they’ll be taking a lot of heat for defying Wall Street — and they need to know they have our gratitude.

Organizing for America supporters are signing a note of thanks to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and all of the allies in Congress who stood up for reform.

Will you add your name?

We’ll deliver these signatures to leaders in Congress who supported reform, after the President signs this into law.

Thanks for all you did to get us here. I’m so grateful to be making history with you, and I know the President is as well.


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

July 16, 2010 @ 5:54 pm | Comment

A bit off-topic, but I’ll let it go.

I was delighted to see today that Harry Reid was ahead of his insane opponent Sharron Angle. I’m thinking that huge GOP landslide everyone’s talking about may be less dramatic than expected.

July 17, 2010 @ 1:14 am | Comment

July 15th, 2010 7:10 PM
Goldman Shares Up; SEC Announces Settlement

By Brett Philbin / Dow Jones

NEW YORK — Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) surged after the close of trading as the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it would settle a fraud lawsuit against the investment bank.

Earlier Thursday, in the regular trading session, shares of the investment bank rose after the SEC said it had a “significant” announcement, without disclosing that it would be the settlement.

July 17, 2010 @ 9:14 am | Comment


Although Joe and I had our differences, I am sorry to hear of his passing and extend my sympathy for your loss. Did he pass on the day you posted this? The reason I ask is because of the irony of Joe dying on July 9th- OJ Simpson’s birthday. It is strange that there has been nothing in the newspapers in the US about his death. Again, I am sorry for your loss.

July 21, 2010 @ 8:11 am | Comment

I will remember Joseph Bosco for the courage he showed in going against the flow of popular opinion and saying what needed to be said. I was sorry for the misfortune that befell him had hope that he found some peace before the end. Thank you Richard for showing us what it means to be a friend. –Jasper

July 21, 2010 @ 8:43 am | Comment

Hi Rovaan, it’s been a long time. Yes, he died the day of the post, on July 9; fate plays odd tricks. I spoke with him on the phone just a couple of days earlier, a call I’ll never forget.

July 21, 2010 @ 8:47 am | Comment

Glad to see your story on Joe, I am friend of Joe’s here in the States who just found out via LA TIMES OBITUARY which didn’t run until yesterday JULY 24th….great guy sad day good grief peace and blessings

Subject: Joseph Bosco dies at 61; freelance crime writer wrote book about
O.J. Simpson murder trial
He secured one of the few permanent seats at the 1995 trial and turned his observations into a nonfiction book about the case, ‘A Problem of Evidence: How the Prosecution Freed O.J. Simpson.’
By Claire Noland, Los Angeles Times
July 24 2010

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,7452812.story
Visit at

July 26, 2010 @ 11:35 am | Comment

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