Our Growing Conversation

Insights from the President of ProAg

Family Story

by Kendall Jones on 10.27.2017

ProAg started as a family owned company and we do as much as we can to carry some of that philosophy forward. For this blog post, we have invited one of our ProAg family members to tell us his story.

Joe Claerhout started working full time for ProAg in 2010 as an area claims supervisor. He is a strong fighter and has always wanted to help get the job done right. Despite his story of struggles, Joe continues to fight his battle with cancer and he continues to help ProAg.

We have missed having Joe around on a regular basis but he’s stayed in touch. His grace and thoughtfulness shines through as he shares some thoughts to try and help anyone who might be facing cancer or other struggles.

As Joe continues his battle, he commented to me this week that he misses work and said he does want to return to help us as soon as he can. I assured him that we’d take him back at any time.

ProAg is looking forward to working with Joe again but until that day, we’re working hard to keep things ready for him and continue to keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

His family is our family, we hope you’ll feel the same.

 

Joe’s Story

By Joe Claerhout
Editor’s Note: This is a condensed version of Joe’s story. To read the full text click here.

 

Joe and Suzy Claerhout from Joe Claerhout's StorySuzy and I were married in 1974. Through the years we transitioned from the greenhouse and farm to a bike shop, full-time crop insurance work, and a race track. We were great partners, working together. The race track and crop insurance years were wonderful. We made so many friends that have really become my family.

In 1997 I had surgery to remove a mole from my face which was diagnosed as melanoma. In 2010 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suzy’s tumor was tiny, and they thought surgery was all she needed. In 2013 my cancer returned, this time on my pancreas. I had surgery and radiation. The following year I thought I was having a stroke – the symptoms were due to the long-term effects of radiation caused by necrosis. It took about six months to gain enough strength to take care of myself. During that summer Suzy’s cancer returned with a vengeance. My condition was getting better and hers was getting worse.

She ended up in hospice. At the end she told me she was ready to go and would not change a thing. She told me she loved me and that I should try to kill a buck. She also said to think of all the people that die when they are young – I got to live a great life.

I try to remember the good times Suzy and I had like the time she opened her Christmas presents from me and was laughing. I said, “What’s so funny?” She said, “This is the same necklace you gave me last year. We laughed about that for years.”

I worked until 2016 without too many side effects. As many of you know, currently I am very sick mentally and physically. I had radiation treatments in 2014, full brain and gamma knife which would come back in 2016 as necrosis and it affected my right side like a stroke. I learned this spring from a doctor that they hardly do full brain radiation any more due to what happened to me – too much radiation I guess. If someone wants to give you full brain radiation ask a lot of questions or get another opinion I lost a ton of mobility due to radiation neuropathy.

My disease is progressing really quickly. I have a hard time walking and last week I could not talk for a day. Suzie would have said that would have been good a few years ago. (LOL) I have come to terms with my disease and look at it as a win/win situation. If I live, I get to spend more time with my family. If I die I get see God, Suzie and the rest of my family. Either way I win.

God has been very good to us all through our lives. I have learned to trust Him with whatever He decides but with a few complaints at first. And that is probably normal. Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts.

Editor’s Note: This is a condensed version of Joe’s story. To read the full three-part story click here.

Comments

  • Leila Van Patten says:

    Thank you for sharing Joe’s story. The people at ProAg definitely play a big part in making this company as great as it is.

  • Derek Eltiste says:

    I remember meeting Joe for the first time in our Lexington office in 2011. From our first meeting through the years of working together, Joe remains one of my favorite people at ProAg. He is a wonderful example of who makes up ProAg. All of the Claims Processing staff is thinking of you Joe!

  • MaryAnn Bouchard says:

    I’ve never had the pleasure to meet Joe or Suzy but their story is filled with so much love and faith I wanted to say thank you for sharing his heartfelt story.

  • BB says:

    KJ and Joe thank you for sharing your story.

    “Many people will walk in and out of your life but only true friends leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

    This is as true as it gets, the way friends and family leave an indelible footprint behind in your heart. You can’t forget the real friends in your life, so the best way to tell whether someone is a true friend is to see how many unforgettable memories they have in your heart. It’s nice to know that you’re also making footprints in their heart, as well as the hearts of others.

    Joe, KJ and my ProAg family I simply say Thank You for yet another footprint in my heart. May God continue to bless and watch over all of you.

  • Laurie Diaz says:

    I have never had the pleasure to meet Joe, but his story is so inspiring. I admire his courage and strength.

  • Kurt Damrow says:

    joe and suzie…..two of thee most wonderful people you could ever have been blessed with to have in your life. Even if it was just for a few hours you knew your time with them was special and meant something. A loving couple that lived for each other, loved and supported their immediate family and many many other kids and adults that they treated as family. True miracles on earth and having had both of them in my life and watching how they mentored and cared for so many others…truly a miracle for many others in their time of need and just in times when happy memories were made.

  • Jim Hillwig says:

    Stay strong Joe. Know that I enjoy our conversations when we have them. My family has had some close similarities to your story, so I know most of what you have and are going through. It is a feel good story. I hope to see you this next year at the Adjuster schools.
    I will continue to pray for you and your family. Thanks Joe.

  • Dale Bremer says:

    Thanks for sharing Joe and Suzie’s story, the positive outlook and continued desire to help others always impressed me and everyone who knows them. I’ve read the story several times and each time I cry, smile, and laugh.

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