Joseph Emanuel Daniels III, an ambulance driver, part-time courier, and basketball coach who devoted his life to mentoring children, was the father of an 11-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, but his impact was felt by scores of other children.
The 33-year-old Philadelphian was highly regarded for his work at Kenderton Elementary in North Philadelphia, where he coached basketball and mentored children in an after-school program and helped maintain order in the building.
Mr. Daniels was shot and killed in North Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 7, a crime that remains unsolved and has no known motive. He was getting something from the trunk of his car after he stopped on Ridge Avenue near Oxford Street about 1 a.m. when someone opened fire. He died a short time later at Temple University Hospital.
“Joe was 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds,” said Kenny Holdsman, CEO and president of Philadelphia Youth Basketball. "But if you ever saw Joe interacting with a young person, he always got down on his knees so he was looking up to the young people.
“He was that in touch with the way in which he was relating with the kids. He was a very gifted mentor and role model.”
Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Daniels was the only child of Angela Wade and Joseph E. Daniels Jr. He graduated from Simon Gratz High School and studied automotive mechanics at Lincoln Technical Institute.
He held several jobs, often at the same time. While working at Kenderton, his son’s school, he began volunteering with the basketball program during the 2016-17 school year. The following school year, he was hired as a coach and mentor there. He later began working as a courier and security for the Philadelphia Children’s Crisis Response Center in East Falls.
In June, he started driving for Healthfleet Ambulance Co. while continuing to coach and mentor kids after school and on Saturdays. He also began developing his own mentoring organization called Destined 4 Greatness Inc. On Aug. 25, the organization’s Facebook page showed photos of book bags packed to be donated to children.
He "was an asset to the community, and he will be missed.” said Kenderton principal Deanna W. Bredell.
Angela Wade, Mr. Daniels’ mother, said his late grandmother often called him "a gentle giant.”
“Joe was a good soul,” Wade said. ”He had a love for kids. He was so kind. He was so instrumental in helping kids."
On Dec. 10, the staff at the Philadelphia Children’s Crisis Response Center held a candlelight vigil and released blue and white balloons in his memory.
Jennifer Polen, the center’s program director, said Mr. Daniels had been part of the founding team that opened the center in 2018. As a courier, part of his job, she said, was to deliver meals to the children center’s patients.
As he served meals, he talked with children and encouraged them, Polen said.
“He was passionate and had a sense of mission about engaging youth," she said. “He helped them create a vision for their future.
“We have guns and drugs on the corner, and his goal was to help kids imagine something different.”
Lashodia Walker, a coworker at the ambulance company, said: “He was just a positive person all the way around. He was just an awesome person. If anyone needed anything, he helped out.”
Holdsman, of Philadelphia Youth Basketball, said Mr. Daniels showed so much dedication as a volunteer in his first year that the program decided to hire him as a coach and mentor for the second and third years.
For every hour on the court, Philadelphia Youth Basketball provides an off-court hour that focuses on building personal, academic, and leadership skills.
“Joe was every bit as enthusiastic about the academic learning, the health and nutrition, and the leadership development parts of the program as he was about basketball,” Holdsman said.
Of the 36 coaches and mentors at the 12 schools where the basketball program operates, Mr. Daniels was one of the best, he said.
In addition to his mother and father, Mr. Daniels is survived by his fiancee, Felicia Mayers; son Zahir; daughter Destiny Stewart; grandfather Joseph E. Sr.; and a sister.