Victor Calleja writes:

I met Joe in the strangest circumstances, about two years ago, at the ungodliest hour of five in the morning. This turned out to be a most fruitful meeting and gave me just a small glimpse into a man with an enormous heart.

We were part of a biggish group going to Brussels on a fact-finding tour of the EU to learn about funding. When we met at the airport for the connecting flight to Paris, I was introduced to Joe and Mark Vella, the CEO and managing director of Halmann. I introduced myself as a journalist.

The last thing I expected at that time of day – way before bodies should be ready to face duels – was to be told by Mark that he hates all journalists. Joe sniggered rather uncomfortably.

Armed with another espresso, I challenged Mark’s words, laughing heartily at his answer, and we moved on to have the best conversation possible in those circumstances. An amazing friendship was forged – with both Mark and Joe. From a sparring, pre-dawn challenge to laughs, bonding and work.

I proceeded to get to know Joe as a man with a mission – to do everything with gusto and always with fairness. He drove all around him, near him or somehow connected to him, amazingly forward. And he did it always with his cheeky, winning smile.

You always knew where you stood with him – certainly from the little I knew him and from what I heard about him.

He was a sturdy rock and remained steady and smiling even when he was diagnosed with cancer. He kept his work-round-the-clock routine almost till the end and remained positive even while the ones next to him faltered.

Joe enriched many lives. The way he was taken was cruel but Joe’s family and whoever knew him will always treasure their great memories of him. Rest in peace Joe and smile down on us.