• 78 years old
  • Born on November 24, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.
  • Passed away on September 7, 2018 in St. Lous Park, Minnesota, United States.

The memorial service will be on Sunday, October 7th at 1pm at Shir Tikvah Synagogue (1360 W Minnehaha Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55419).  If you are coming to Minneapolis from out of town, there is a hotel where you can receive a group rate.  Please contact andrew.charon@gmail.com with any questions.

This memorial website was created in memory of Professor Dr. Joel Charon PhD.  We welcome you to share your comments, memories, stories and photos.  Joel's family has tentative plans for a memorial service for him on October 7th in Minneapolis but are waiting to confirm details.  Please check back.  

Joel M. Charon, age 78, died peacefully surrounded by his family at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, MN on September 7, 2018 due to a long-standing illness.

Joel was born in Minneapolis, MN on November 24th, 1939. He graduated from North High School in 1957 and after a short time in peacetime military service, went on to receive his Bachelors Degree in Education, Masters Degree in History, and PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota.

Joel was a dedicated, well-respected and inspirational educator, at Harding and Highland Park high schools in St. Paul, MN. He also served as Principal at Temple of Aaron Sunday School.  Joel later became a Professor of Sociology at Moorhead State University from 1972 - 2001 where he served as Chair for several years. As a Professor of Sociology, Joel was known for his enthusiasm, passion and dedication for teaching, and for challenging his students to think critically. After living in Moorhead, MN for 29 years, he and his wife Susan retired to Henderson, NV where he took an active role in enriching the community he lived in by founding programs such as a life-long learning center. Joel was a passionate scholar and was the author of multiple sociology textbooks, which have been translated into numerous languages including Chinese and Spanish and are continually used throughout the world. 

Joel believed deeply in helping others and donated his time in multiple ways including tutoring youth, creating learning programs, and serving as part of many organizations that spanned education, religion, social/humanitarian causes and the arts. He was also known to challenge his 8 and 11-year-old grandchildren with questions such as "What is the meaning of life?”. Joel was infused with a bright and generous spirit and always maintained a delightful sense of humor.

Joel was a caring and loving son, husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle and is preceded in death by parents Albert and Rose Charon and sister Sandra Charon. He is survived by wife of 50 years Susan; siblings Joanie (Zach) Seff and Nyles (Anne) Charon; children Andrew (Bridget) and Daniel (Natalie Desch); and granddaughters Quincy and Corbin (Andrew).  

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Kidney Fund (http://www.kidneyfund.org/).  

The memorial service will be on Sunday, October 7th at 1pm at Shir Tikvah Synagogue (1360 W Minnehaha Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55419).  If you are coming to Minneapolis from out of town, there is a hotel where you can receive a group rate.  Please contact andrew.charon@gmail.com with any questions.

For questions, please reach out to Andrew Charon at andrew.charon@gmail.com.

Posted by Jake Harold on 8th October 2018
I remember taking Joel's intro to Sociology in the late 1970's as a general studies class to fulfill my requirements for graduation. It was a very large class with over 125 students. I am a technical guy and just could not understand the concept and was not doing well in the class. Actually the only one I ever received a letter grade of a D in college. I went in for help and he reviewed my test with me and told me that I would never make it through college. This was quite a shock coming from a professor so liked and respected as he was. Even though I have been married to someone with a social work degree for over 35 years, I just never really understood the philosophy. Well Joel really pissed me off. I not only received on B.S Degree but I completed two from two universities along with a couple of minors. Yes there were times I wanted to take my two diplomas and show him that he was wrong. In the end it didn't really matter. It was his words that pushed me to succeed if that makes sense. Years later one of my son's friends had a Bar Mitzvah. Now I am a ultra right wing conservative and really never trusted Zionists or Israel for that matter for many personal reasons going back a couple of generations from pre Nazi Germany. So here I am at this Bar Mitzvah watching my sons friend leading the church for about five minutes on Friday night and who do I see but Joel coaching this young man before his big event. All I can say is the next day after seeing this young man preform for over 60 minutes in such an outstanding ceremony where he not only conversed in Hebrew but also sang in Hebrew, I gained a terrific respect for Joel's religion and his coaching ability. I could never look at a Lutheran or Catholic confirmation in the same way again with the respect as I did at his Temple. I rarely read newspapers anymore. So I cannot understand why I saw Joel's obituary a couple of weeks ago. Now I never appreciated the advice he gave me but maybe I can appreciate in the end what he either intentionally or intentionally did. Sometimes negative things can bring positive things. That's what Joel did for me and how he affected my life. Best wishes to your family at this time of sorrow.
Posted by Eleanor Vander Haegen on 28th September 2018
Joel was a singular man, brilliant and simple, principled and thoughtful. We studied together for the written comprehensive exams at U of Minnesota and he enriched my understanding of Weber and Marx. I have never forgotten his enthusiasm for sociology and tried to model my own teaching on his work. I send my sympathies to Suzy, Daniel and Andrew and family. Surely Joel was a gift to all of you. Joel’s memory is a blessing. Eleanor Vander Haegen
Posted by James Grindeland on 16th September 2018
Joel was a great inspiration to me, and I still have numerous cassette tape recordings of his sociology lectures. He inspired me to stay in school and expanded my conception of how good a teacher can be. I went on to become a university teacher myself and often think of his example when I'm getting ready for class.
Posted by Linda Kalland Schwartzwal... on 16th September 2018
II feel so sad after reading of Joel's passing. My heart goes out to Susan, Andrew, Daniel and their families. I knew Joel as a Sociology major and worker in the Sociology department at Moorhead State University in the late ‘70’s. As a 25-year old single parent who considered herself brain dead and did not have a clue about what she was doing, Joel’s Introduction to Sociology was the first class I experienced. I remember thinking “OMG. Wow! Hold on!” I always felt so energized and inspired in his classes. His brilliance, wisdom, passion, caring, devotion, and ENERGY all came through loud and clear and was infectious. He became a giant to me, a mentor (I don't think he knew that), an extraordinary professor, and most importantly, he taught me to critical think. He also encouraged and supported sincere, genuine intellectual inquiry which have become a part of who I am throughout my life (for better or for worse). This intellectual inquiry led me to concentrations in PhiIosophy and Political Science. I had the honor of taking every class he offered and the privilege of assisting him in some of his research projects. In his busy world he agreed to support me in my own undergraduate research interest. Joel had an appreciative, genuine, sincere interest in learning about and hearing other points of view, especially those he had not thought of before or were contrary to his own. He truly listened. You could see it in his eyes. The impact on the receivers of this quality is incalculable. I am one of thousands of lives Joel touched throughout the years. Beautiful tributes are shared by former students, community members, and friends and family, and many of Joel’s characteristics live on in them. They in turn pass on those characteristics to others. Joel probably wouldn’t remember me, which further supports my point on what an impact he had on so many people even if they weren’t close friends or family. Imagine the flow of his spirit. Thank you Joel. Susan, Andrew and Daniel, I wish for you Peace. Linda Kalland Schwartzwalter
Posted by Kathi Humphries on 13th September 2018
I first knew Joel only as “Andrew’s Dad” and who shouted out the window at 1:00 a.m. that Andrew wasn’t home when I threw pebbles at the wrong window. My sophomore year at MSU I got to know Dr. Charon too. I signed up for his sociology course. I almost dropped that course before it ever started as I’d heard others say what a “hard ass” he was and how difficult the class was. I talked to Andrew about it and he convinced me to give his Dad a chance. I am so glad that I did. I never regretted that choice and the class became a favorite, and one of the best experiences I had at MSU. Dr. Charon was an inspiring and exciting professor, with colorful stories and pop culture references that made learning fun and got me excited about life and human interaction. I ended up working for Dr. Charon and was excited to transcribe interviews for one of his books. Dr. Charon was a great intellect, analyst, and such a positive influence and role model on my young impressionable brain. I loved chatting with him about anything and everything and always felt a bit smarter after each discussion. I also know Joel was an awesome Dad and showed nothing but kindness to Andrew's friends. Unlike the other parents, he didn't tell us what to think, but asked us the questions that got us thinking. I know I’m a better person for having known Joel and for being lucky enough to call him professor and friend.
Posted by Laurel Graham on 13th September 2018
One October day in 1982 when I was a sophomore at MSU, I walked into Joel Charon's office under the pretense that I needed help with the assigned material for his Introduction to Sociology course. What I really wanted to know was what it was like to be a sociologist. The first month of his course had been so incredibly interesting that I was seriously thinking about declaring a major in sociology and then pursuing an MA and PhD somewhere down the road. He tried his best to assure me that autumn day that not everyone is cut out for this type of career... but I persisted. A week later, when he found out I was looking for a work-study position, he hired me on the spot, foolishly trusting my own inflated assessment of my typing skills. For the next three academic years, I worked ten hours a week as Joel's teaching assistant and research assistant, typing all or part of at least two editions of his books, grading multiple choice exams, photocopying books and papers, proctoring exams, and most importantly, learning what it was like to be a professor of sociology. During those years, he gifted me with many priceless philosophical and sociological discussions as well as plenty of humorous stories. But there were also important life lessons--I learned about work/life balance and how family always comes first. I also learned which Wagner, Mahler and Beethoven symphonies were best, why "Hey Jude" was his such a great Beatles song, and even a few insights about the stock market. I left MSU three years later with the confidence that I had the tools to make it through graduate school and become a professor who might someday teach with such heart and care about students in the same way that Joel Charon did. That is exactly what happened. His intellectual legacy lives on through his books, of course, but his spirit also lives on through the work (especially the teaching) that so many of his former students are now doing. He changed many thousands of lives for the better, helping his students understand the world in a way that finally made sense, and they are passing all of this along to others. Thank you Joel. My heartfelt condolences to the wonderful Charon family.
Posted by Tracy Peters on 12th September 2018
I was truly blessed to have Professor Charon at MSUM in the mid-1980s. He made a positive impact on the lives of all of his students, including mine. I am forever grateful to have crossed paths with him in life. My condolences to his family -
Posted by Curtis Bring on 12th September 2018
My sympathies to Joel’s family. He was a true friend, a scholar and all-around good guy. We both joined the faculty at Moorhead State in 1973. Every month for 20 years I had the pleasure of working with Joel helping him coordinate activities with our campus investment club. His enthusiasm with so many things in life was a true joy. I have truly missed him during our retirement years. Let Joel’s family know that we are many who have been blessed by our sharing of time and ideas with our dear friend.
Posted by Jeff Nyquist on 12th September 2018
I was a student of Joel's in the late 70's at MSU. What a teacher! His passion and enthusiasm were, for me, contagious. I loved this guy. He cared, and it came through in each interaction. Joel's greatest contribution in my experience was that he taught us the value of critical thinking- something in short supply in our culture today. I am grateful to have known this man. Thank you Joel.
Posted by Beth Smith on 11th September 2018
I too had the pleasure of having Professor Charon as my sociology professor at Moorhead State University in the late 80's. He was an unforgettable instructor. My condolences to the Charon family.
Posted by Karen Earles on 11th September 2018
I had the pleasure of having Professor Charon as my sociology professor at Moorhead State University in the early 80's. I absolutely loved him as a teacher and a person. He was a caring person, who loved what he did; he was kind and I never forgot him. I am sad to learn of Joel's death and my prayers and thoughts for Joel and his family and friends. God Bless.
Posted by Nicole Bernath Rustad on 11th September 2018
Joel was a staple presence in my childhood. From synagogue to social gatherings, he always made time to talk with "the kids". We were never excluded and always made to feel as if he was hanging on every word we said. My thoughts, prayers, love, and hugs are for Susan, Andrew, Daniel, and their families. This great teacher, friend, mentor, and man will forever be missed.
Posted by Dieter Berninger on 11th September 2018
Thank you Andrew for posting this on Facebook so that many will have the opportunity to express their admiration and sorrow. Beth and I are grateful that we had the chance to visit wth Joel in August. We saw that he was failing, but during the hours I spent with him we touched on many topics: his pride and love for his family and how fortunate he had been in marriage and in life. A man of humility, Joel told me again how his dream had been to be a teacher and a good one. Actually, he was one of the very best! His positive and lasting influence on students was deep and widespread. His sense of justice and his decency were known and admired. Despite his modesty, I think he knew this and I was gratified to share these things with him on a number of occasions in past years. He enriched our lives. Dear Susan, our thoughts turn to you, a devoted caregiver during difficult times. Your well-being has also been a concern and we know you will, in the embrace of a wonderful family, find ease and enjoy life.
Posted by David Myers on 10th September 2018
I met Joel in 1972 when I began teaching at what was then Moorhead State College. Over the years we had many long, very academic conversations: a respectful dialogue between a sociologist and a philosopher. As with Lee Vigilant, Joel and I had gentle disagreements about religion. I too strongly challenged the secularization thesis (as societies progress, religion weakens and loses its authority) while Joel defended it forcefully: both of us disagreeing in good humor. I was drawn not only to Joel's love of ideas but also to his deep compassion for those at the margins of society. We had real affection for each other: I count him as one of my best and dearest friends. One trait of Joel I highly valued as a good friend was his great honesty. I of course admired his intellectual talents: he was a gifted teacher and an equally gifted author of numerous textbooks. The clarity of his writing mirrored his lucidity as a teacher of sociology. Joel and I did have a life beyond the academy: Sue, Joel, Betty and I spent many wonderful evenings together out for dinner, talking about everything under the sun. When Sue and Joel moved away from Moorhead, we felt a great loss. With Joel's death, I now feel a permanent loss beyond words
Posted by Jeff Herstein on 10th September 2018
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Posted by Jaci Christman on 10th September 2018
I'm sorry to hear about Mr. Charon. I had him as a professor at MSU. So smart. And he was very supportive of his kids. He and Susan would attend the dance company shows. He always had a twinkle in his eye. I remember him fondly. My condolences to Susan, Andrew and Daniel and families. Thinking of you all. --Jaci Christman
Posted by Sara Bergen on 10th September 2018
So sorry about your dad's passing. You and Bridget have been such a support to your dad and mom. The world is a better place with you and Daniel; if all dad's raised such conscious men the world would be a safer place. Thanks, Joel.
Posted by Lee Vigilant on 10th September 2018
I met Dr. Joel Charon for the first time in February 2001 as a finalist for a tenure track vacancy at MSUM pending his retirement at the end of the school year. He took me to lunch and we had a rousing argument about the secularization thesis in sociology: Joel argued in support while I attempted to match his passion in challenging this perspective. That conversation was the start of a 17-year friendship and collaboration on many book projects and writing efforts. Joel was the consummate teacher, mentor, and friend. His advice and guidance to me were invaluable in both my professional and personal arenas. He gave me the best marriage advice on money: “Lee, let your wife handle the money; you worry about world peace.” Joel was also one of the most generous, giving, and helpful people I have known; I try to model his generosity in my teaching and mentoring relationships with students. My heartfelt condolences to Susan and the entire family for the loss of such a force of life, intelligence, and passion. Joel was loved and admired by many people, and he will be dearly missed.
Posted by Leslie Krona on 10th September 2018
I was also in a 10th grade World History Class and will always list Mr Charon as my favorite teacher. He was the first teacher I encountered that encouraged critical thinking in a 1960’s world that was changing. I wish you all many peaceful memories of a life well lived. His classroom lives on.
Posted by Joel Dahlquist on 10th September 2018
Joel was kind to me when I was a brand new professor. He encouraged me in many ways.
Posted by Patrice Halbach on 10th September 2018
Mr. Charon was my 10th grade World History teacher at Harding High School in 1968. He changed my life. He taught me to think critically (to the despair and annoyance of my parents) and cracked the door to a world and a future this kid from the east side of St. Paul never imagined possible. I thought of him often and weep that I never told him what he meant to me.
Posted by Elayne Shapiro on 9th September 2018
When we lived in Fargo, Joel was the hub of social gatherings. He organized a poker club, a tennis group, an annual fishing trip. He helped cook for the annual Bagel Brunch fundraiser. His brisket and knishes were celebrated by all who found their way to Sue and Joel's guest table. Inviting the old groups for an annual reunion, Joel continued organizing when he and Susie moved to Las Vegas. His warmth, brilliance, and good humor will be missed on this earth. With love, Elayne and Leonard Shapiro
Posted by Cheri Nakisher on 8th September 2018
I am very sorry to learn of Joel's passing. Since I didn't really know him well it was a pleasure to read of his many accomplishments and see the great love he had for his family as shown in the photographs. May his memory be a blessing for Susan, Andrew, Daniel, his grandchildren and all of the members of his family and dear friends. Sent with Loving Kindness, Cheri
Posted by Lois Peterson on 8th September 2018
I am so very sad to learn of Joel’s passing. Condolences to Susan and to the family. Sending love and hugs. Wayne and I have such happy memories of our times with Susan and Joel. Love, Lois

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