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Centerville Man Who Lived With Donor Heart for 35 Years Dies at 64

In this 2019 file photo, Joe Rosen of Centerville celebrates the 34th anniversary of receiving a heart transplant with a fudge cake complete with a No. 34 candle at T.J.’s Sports Garden in Wheeling. Rosen died on Feb. 28 at the age of 64.

Centerville resident Joe Rosen, who lived with a donor heart for more than 35 years, died Feb. 28. He was 64 years old.

Rosen graduated from Union Local High School in 1974. He was born in Glen Dale on July 17, 1956, a son of the late Mike Rosen and Grace Garrison Rosen.

Rosen received his donor heart during a transplant operation on Oct. 25, 1985. He was 29 years old at the time.

Every year on the anniversary of receiving the donated heart, he celebrated the occasion. It was the beginning of his new life with a new heart. During an interview with The Times Leader in 2019, Rosen said the heart allowed him to live a happy, healthy life. He said receiving the heart was a second chance to live again.

He said then that he always tried to be a good steward of the heart he received by staying active and living a healthy lifestyle.

None of his doctors could tell him just how long it would last.

“I woke up and I was better. I wasn’t sick, I was better — I knew I was better,” Rosen said back in 2019 of the transplant experience. “The thing that was weird, I was putting my hand to my chest and it wasn’t my heartbeat … It was so odd, it wasn’t my heart anymore — it was someone else’s heart. I was always told the heart would never be my heart, that it would always belong to the donor. I was told by the transplant coordinator that, ‘You are the caretaker of this heart.'”

Rosen held a variety of jobs over the years. He was a licensed barber and had a shop in Centerville. He also taught sign language at Belmont College. Later, he became an early intervention specialist in Cambridge for the Guernsey County Board of Developmental Disabilities. He worked there for 16 years before retiring.

The Guernsey County Board of Developmental Disabilities posted on its social media that officials there would always remember Rosen. They described him as a “very special person and co-worker.” He was known for his “infectious smile and contagious laugh” and loved to sing. He exuded joy and positivity.

Rosen was also the author of a children’s book, “Smally and the Big Shiny Yellow Bulldozer.”

Rosen is survived by a sister, Ilene (Charley Mac) Dillon of Jerusalem, Ohio; a sister-in-law, Helen (Paul) Parnell of St. Clairsville, along with several nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.

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