My Two Encounters With “Papa Joe”, The Man Known For His Dog And Pushing His Wheelchair

Papa Joe and Snow
Image via Michelle Johnson on Facebook

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a fatal accident involving a pedestrian in Mary Esther.

Deputies say 72-year old Joseph Leppado, also known as “Papa Joe”, was pushing his wheelchair as he and his dog, Snow, walked east on Hollywood Boulevard Saturday evening around 9:20 p.m. when he was hit by a man driving a pick-up truck.

The accident took place near the intersection of Hollywood and Jonquil Avenue. Leppado’s home address is listed as 33 Cape Drive in Fort Walton Beach.

Hollywood and Jonquil

After the accident, Eastbound and Westbound Hollywood was shut down from Bryn Mawr Blvd to Marcia Circle.

EMS responded and transported Joe to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased as a result of his injuries. As for his dog Snow, PAWS responded to take custody of the animal.

It Was A Cold Night When I Had My First Encounter With Papa Joe

A couple of years ago I had my first encounter with Papa Joe. My wife and I were walking out of TJ Maxx and into Books-a-Million. Sitting in between Cici’s Pizza and the entrance into the bookstore was Papa Joe and Snow.

It was cold. I can’t say for certain the exact time or day, but we were doing some holiday shopping. I remember Joe sitting in his wheelchair with a beanie on and a blanket over his lap. Snow sitting quietly right next to his side.

I said “hello” as we walked past him and he asked if we had a couple of dollars to spare. I don’t carry much cash on me anymore since debit cards have become commonplace. This night, however, we did have a few bucks.

I told him that we don’t carry much cash but that he could have what I had in my pocket.

He was grateful and we went on our way.

My Second, And Final, Encounter With Papa Joe Involved Pot Stickers Outside TGIFridays Back In July

For my family, weekend restaurant visits are the norm. It’s how we wind down from the week and gives us a chance to have good conversation without someone stuck in the kitchen.

As we finished and paid the bill, we boxed up our leftovers. It was one of those nights where we ordered too much thinking that we could eat it all.

Our car was parked in the corner spot close to the light on Mary Esther Cutoff. Through the bushes that line the front on the restaurant chain we saw Joe and Snow.

As I’m walking up to unlock the car Joe looks at me and asks if I could spare any change. I needed to get my son into his car seat so I tell Joe to hold on for a minute and I would be right over. That’s when my mother stepped in.

As I’m buckling my little one in, my mother walks over to talk with Joe and asks if he would like any food. She told him that we had plenty of leftovers, some of the food never even being touched.

He said that he would really appreciate some food and that he was pretty hungry.

As we said goodnight and pulled out of the parking lot, we could see him and Snow sitting down eating.

His Encounters With Others In The Fort Walton Beach Area

I don’t say any of this to make myself look good. Sure, we gave him money and food but that’s because he needed it and it was the right thing to do.

Some people use the money for the wrong reasons so I completely get the hesitation to help out. But in the end, we are all human-beings who could need some help every now and then.

Those two encounters with Joe and his dog weren’t the only times that I had seen him. The many trips that I take down Mary Esther Cutoff, I frequently saw him walking.

As news of his passing began circulating on Facebook, it was obvious that others in the area had their own encounters:

Pops is a great man! Korean War vet! Live a full life way he wanted to! Shame he was taken this way!

Omg! I cannot believe it. I used to take him and Snow food, blankets, etc. My heart breaks for this loss. And poor Snow. I bet she is so scared at PAWS!!!

My boyfriend and I used to see this guy all the time. He always was welcome to have whatever money my boyfriend gave him, and he had such a beautiful dog. Bless this kind man and may he rest in peace and snow find a good home.

This was at the intersection of my street. This is very Sad! Someone needs to put in street lights and a stop light. You can not see hardly anything because it is too dark! It makes it impossible to see pedestrians or even make it possible sometimes to even cross the street. I gave this man money a few times. His dog was very sweet. So Sad.

I met him and his dog just a couple weeks ago…. Glad I took a moment to sit with him and his pup… This saddens me greatly he was such a gentle soul and kind…

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Additional details will be released when they become available.

PAWS Updates The Status Of Snow and Confirms That She Will Have a New Home Once Released By Doctors

Everyone asking about Snow!
He doesn't need to be rescued yet. The emergency officers are on duty this weekend. …

Posted by Panhandle Animal Welfare Society on Sunday, September 6, 2015

RIP Papa Joe! 😢

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