LISBON FALLS, Maine – October 31, 2023
Following the devastating events that resulted in the loss of 18 lives at a Maine bowling alley and a bar, families are contending with deep and profound grief. Among the victims was Josh Seal, a 36-year-old American Sign Language interpreter, a loving father of four, and a cherished community leader. His death has left a deep void in Maine’s close-knit deaf community.
During the horrifying incident, most survivors attempted to flee when the gunfire erupted. However, Josh Seal, who was deaf, could not hear the shots. His wife, Elizabeth Seal, explained that while some deaf survivors felt the startling vibrations, Josh was unaware of the danger.
Josh Seal played a pivotal role in the community, serving as the director of interpreting services for Pine Tree Society, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities. He was also the founder of a camp for deaf children and teenagers, making a significant impact on the lives of many. But above all, he was a devoted, outgoing father who adored his four deaf children.
Elizabeth, also deaf, expressed her profound loss, saying, “I want the world to remember him and his passion, his love, his patience, his kindness, his motivation, his zeal for life, his ability to get things done, and his humor.”
The tragic incident unfolded when an Army reservist opened fire with a rifle at Just-in-Time Recreation, a bowling alley, and Schemengees Bar & Grill, which was hosting a cornhole tournament. The assailant subsequently took his own life, and his body was discovered a few days later.
In the Seal household, Josh had a heartwarming tradition of waking his daughter by signing, “Good morning, sunshine,” before getting their other children ready for school. Josh, a father to Jayson, 12; Sephine, 9; Jarrod, 6; and Jaxton, 3, was known for keeping the family active and engaged. The Seals rarely had a weekend without exciting plans, such as camping and snowmobiling, reflecting Josh’s energetic spirit. He also pursued his passions, including playing disc golf.
Elizabeth Seal cherished the memories they created together, even if it meant some home improvement projects were put on hold. She said, “There was never a dull, quiet moment.”
Josh Seal, a certified interpreter, was called upon to translate daily COVID-19 briefings during the pandemic. Initially nervous, he rose to the challenge, learning complex medical terminology and earning respect from figures like Dr. Nirav Shah, the former director of the “Maine Center for Disease Control, and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.”
His employer, Pine Tree Society, lauded his contributions, stating, “He made communication and understanding possible in countless situations as an interpreter, mentor, and tireless advocate.” Josh was known for his innovative ideas and proactive approach to projects.
Tragically, the shooting incident claimed the lives of several deaf survivors and injured others. Elizabeth Seal endured a harrowing night while trying to find answers, as her husband and friends were attending the cornhole tournament. Hours later, her brother informed her of the tragedy, and her two eldest children could sense the gravity of the situation by the expression on her face.
The conclusion of the search for the gunman has marked the beginning of the healing process for many. Vigils have drawn thousands of attendees, and children are returning to school as stay-at-home orders are lifted. However, for Elizabeth Seal, the closure remains elusive until she receives her husband’s body from the medical examiner.
She said, “I feel like when I see his body, that will feel more like it’s real. And I can have that closure to move ahead and move on.”
In a poignant moment of solace, Josh Seal’s sister welcomed a newborn daughter, naming her Olivia Joshua Skye. Elizabeth felt Josh’s presence with the baby, providing comfort and a sense of his enduring spirit.
The deaf community, and indeed all of Maine, will remember Josh Seal as a dedicated family man, interpreter, and inspirational figure, leaving an indelible mark on those whose lives he touched.