April 30, 2020

DAYTON, Ohio - Face masks felt odd and intrusive at first.  But as they become more common, some blood donors are using them for personal expression, like a unique tattoo or favorite t-shirt.

The mask Huber Heights donor Joe Koenig wore while making his milestone 150th lifetime donation April 30 at Community Blood Center is a Route 66 road map of his family roots out west.

"My daughter made it," said Joe. "She was born in New Mexico when I was in the Air Force. I went to school at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, and that's where I did my first donation."

The mask design includes the classic U.S. Route 66 road sign, an old gas station pump and a suitcase with vintage travel stickers. It maps his western memories through New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

"I graduated high school in Oklahoma," Joe explained. "My dad was in the Army and I was Air Force. I went to school in Colorado and that's why it has Route 66."

His career took him eventually to Wright Patterson Air Force Base where he became a loyal CBC donor and a member of a Life Leaders team. "It was in the late 80's, when they had those teams and you competed," he said. "Ours was the Assistant Program Office working on the F15 out there at Area B. I remember that."

Joe retired in 1992 after 27 years in the service, then taught physics for 10 years at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center.  He retired from teaching in 2003, then let his faith guide him to what he calls his "third career" in community service.

As a volunteer with the Living City Project in Dayton he helped collect 250 tons of trash last year, earning the city a national "Keep America Beautiful" campaign award.  This year's project was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another disappointment for Joe is that the May 10 National Day of Prayer event on Dayton's Courthouse Square will be a virtual event this year, again because of COVID-19.

But with his road map face mask firmly in place, Joe could donate in person at the Dayton CBC. He's been a platelet and plasma donor since 2001 and averages 10 donations per year.  He reached his 150th donation milestone with his fifth donation of 2020.

As Joe continues to charter the course of his continuing "Donor for Life" journey, he may have to ask his daughter to make him another mask.