On April 22, 2020, our collective Hexagon hearts were shattered by the news that Joe Kaplan lost his battle with COVID-19.
Joe had been a presence in the Hexagon family since 1993, when he began writing for our annual revue. His talented wife, Ellen, first brought her exuberant presence to our annual shows in 1992, and continued through 1998. They took a hiatus to raise and support their three beautiful and talented daughters, and returned in 2007 to resume their love of theater. While Ellen sang, danced and acted, Joe continued to write for our shows; and took on many other roles, such as Materials Coordinator from 2012-2017 and then as the “Assistant Director for Creative Materials,” in 2018 through this year. He chaired the Membership /Social Committee in 2012 and joined the Hexagon Board of Directors in 2014 as the Beneficiary VP. More importantly, in 2009 he joined the cast and never looked back – he was a natural! And in 2015, he assumed the mantle of President, which continued to this year.
Joe was also active on and offstage with The British Players, where he and Ellen were beloved for their many contributions to the annual Music Halls and Pantos.
What is more impressive are Joe’s achievements in his 40-year legal career.
In August 1986, Joe started his professional association with Ed Passman, joining the former firm of Passman and Broida and left the firm in 1989 to start his own law practice. In 1990, Joe and Ed Passman founded the firm of Passman & Kaplan, P.C. as Founding Principals. Since then, Joe has tirelessly fought for employees and unions, including winning a number of precedent-setting victories for clients. He has also mentored a generation of federal employment lawyers, with the rolls of current and former P&K attorneys who Joe taught, who are now making a mark in legal practice nationwide.
If that isn’t enough, in 2009, Joe was a faculty member in American University’s Key Executive Leadership Programs, instilling hundreds of federal executives with an understanding of constitutional law, and also taught courses in the Department of Public Administration and Policy, and the Washington College of Law.
Joe was a widely published author in the field of federal employment law, as the principal author of all three editions of Passman & Kaplan’s Federal Employees Legal Survival Guide, as well as co-author of Litigating Federal Sector Employment and Labor Disputes: A Practitioner’s Handbook, and author of many other publications.
Joe was a highly sought-after lecturer on federal employment law issues, including frequent speaking engagements at numerous conferences. As a result of his extraordinary contributions to Labor and Employment law, Joe has been named as one of Washington, DC’s Top Lawyers by WashingtonianMagazine since 2013 and named a Washington DC Super Lawyer every year since 2008.
Joe loved cooking, New England Pizza, Abraham Lincoln, Civil War paraphernalia, and spoiling his grandchildren, who meant the world to him.
Much loved husband, father, brother and grandfather, Joe had the devoted support of Ellen, his wife and best friend of almost 45 years, his three children Liza (Justin), Ashley (Danny), and Amanda (David), two grandchildren, Mallory and Gavin, his entire Hexagon family, and many, many additional friends.
During his month-long battle with the virus, despite the recent burdens imposed by social distancing, Ellen and Joe felt the love and support communicated by family and friends through texts, e-mail, phone calls, video messages, and gifts left at their front door. Those thoughtful gestures made a big difference.
Joe, we will miss your extraordinary energy and endless gift of self to your wonderful family, to Hexagon and to the world. Your contributions will be felt long into the future by all whose lives you’ve touched. We’ll miss your smile, your brilliant and funny lyrics, and your continuous and selfless leadership. With your passing, we have some big shoes to fill, and we will in honor of your memory.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family suggests making a donation to Hexagon “In Memory of Joe Kaplan.” Simply click on the Donate to Hexagon button at the top of this page or mail a check to Hexagon Inc. c/o Kathy Meyer Jeffers, 5614 Connecticut Avenue N.W. PMB 294, Washington, DC 20015-2604. Hexagon is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.
I was not privileged to know Mr. Kaplan personally, but his daughter Liza has deeply impacted my life in the publishing world—believing in me and in my work in ways I have to imagine her father modeled. And so, to Mr. Kaplan's family, and those who were blessed to know him personally, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this man and his gifts with the world.
wrote on April 28, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Joe's inspiration, humor and yes, patience, will live on with me and all who knew him. Our prayers are with the whole family. Tom
wrote on April 28, 2020 at 11:54 am
A light has gone out in our world.
wrote on April 28, 2020 at 11:13 am
In my time in Hexagon, which is a long time, I have seen heady success (raising as much as $130,000) and dark times, including its near demise. Fortunately, when it was most needed, there was always someone who stepped up and did what was necessary.
But I have never seen anyone do all the things that Joe Kaplan did to keep the spirit of Hexagon going as a viable entity, and do it for so long a time. Making it truly amazing is that he was able to accomplish this while building a successful professional career in a complicated field, plus sharing his expertise as a teacher, not to mention being a solid family man. I admire him and will miss him.
wrote on April 27, 2020 at 9:33 am
Hexagon Update: St Peter reported on Wednesday morning that the herald trumpets were blazing to salute a true statesman, father, leader and Hexagon president. Today we lost an irreplaceable leader and friend.
Joe, you will be missed every time the Newsbreak jingle sounds! Fair winds,
To Ellen, Liza, Amanda and Ashley---yesterday's event was just wonderful!
Michael B. Rubin
wrote on April 26, 2020 at 5:52 pm
I was shocked and horrified to read a few days ago that Joe had passed away. My sincere condolences to Ellen and her daughters. I did not know Joe well but I knew of all he did for Hexagon, which was a great deal.
I was at Joe's virtual funeral and shiva today. After all I heard I can see Joe was indeed an exceptional man who was taken much too young from this earth. The world needs more Joe Kaplans. May you rest in peace Joe. You were a credit to humanity.
wrote on April 25, 2020 at 3:58 pm
I am so terribly sorry to have heard the news about Joe.
Finding myself at a loss for words, I searched through my old emails to see if I could find any inspiring words from Joe himself, but my search turned up what many of you probably already knew: He was a man of few words, and tremendous heartfelt action. All I could find were simple one sentence suggestions on how to solve the many challenges we faced during the 2009 show, as well as a reminder that he was the one who wrote the presidential solo that year, "It Was Nothin'."
Joe, I know you're watching down on us now. Thank you for leading an awe inspiring life. It was definitely not nothing.
Kara Stein and Eric Fingerhut
wrote on April 25, 2020 at 2:06 pm
We became engaged during Kara's first year in Hexagon and married the second. It was such a joy to have Ellen and Joe at our wedding. Joe was the true definition of a "mensch," and it was a privilege to know him. Kara especially enjoyed running into him downtown in recent years, since their offices were across the street from one another. We will miss his kindness and humor, but we know that his memory will be a blessing to all who knew him.
wrote on April 25, 2020 at 1:51 pm
Seeing Joe was one of my favorite things about volunteering for Hexagon. I am blessed with so many wonderful memories of Joe and will severely miss him. I'm so glad to have had our stories cross, and my deepest sympathies for Ellen, Liza, Ashley and Amanda.
Lulu Delacre and Arturo Betancourt
wrote on April 25, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Dear Ellen, Liza, Ashley, and Amanda,
It's with great sadness that we learn of Joe's passing. Please know that both Arturo and I wish that bright and beautiful memories of Joe's life will guide your path to healing. May you find comfort in the virtual embrace of others.
wrote on April 24, 2020 at 6:24 pm
To both Joe's family & the Hexagon crew -- my deepest sympathies to you all. Joe was such a tremendous guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to chat with him for the last few years ahead of each Hexagon production.
wrote on April 24, 2020 at 7:29 am
So many tributes make me wish I had known you better, Joe. Ellen, what a terrible loss. Hard to understand now, but there is a brighter day to come when you can look back, with joy amidst the sadness., remembering across the many years of the wonderful life you and Joe were fortunate enough to enjoy together for as long as you did.,
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 10:52 pm
So sorry about this profound loss, Ellen.
May the loving memories stay with you always.
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 8:43 pm
My heart is breaking for you! I cannot believe it! Oh my dear wonderful Ellen, I weep for you.❤️❤️❤️🌹. Always, Shirley
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 8:31 pm
I first met Joe in elementary school and we went through high school together. He was just a nice guy. I send all my thoughts and prayers to his family.
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 7:13 pm
This is Thursday night and I’ve been off Facebook for a while and I’m in great shock!
Joe is (I cannot use the past tense) the most energetic and lively, creative and loving person around. This news is unbelievable. My heart goes out to Ellen, to your daughters, and their spouses and Joe’s grandkids.
It is all very much the Joe Kaplan I know who drove up to NYC to bring his family back from the plague up there. And he thus put himself in great danger.
Ellen, May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and the Mourners of Hexagon.
And a final HUZZAH to your dear Joe.
Mary Baxter and Russell LeFurgy
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 6:53 pm
My son and I have been regular patrons of Hexagon for many years. It was Hexagon that initially sparked his interest in theater and acting. We saw Mr. Kaplan recently in the March 2020 Hexagon performance and are very saddened to hear of his passing.
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 6:42 pm
I have so enjoyed Hexagon over the years. It won’t be the same without Joe. May his family find joy in the memories despite the tragedy of his passing.
John C Bailey
wrote on April 23, 2020 at 6:21 pm
My heart goes out to Joe's family, knowing that his family was huge and that he will be missed. One of the good ones.