Greg Joelson was a man with a contagious laugh. His laughter boomed and added warmth and joy to every room he was in.
"You just knew when Greg was in the building; he had this thundering laugh. Oh man, you could just tell," said Tony Matthes, theater director at Edina High School, about his friend. "And his smile … "
Joelson, from Minneapolis, was a local theater director and choreographer at Edina schools. He was also involved with Youth Performance Company in Minneapolis, where he taught local kids theater and shared his love for performing.
He died on Feb. 6 at age 43.
"As far back as I could remember, he was always involved in theater," said his sister Penny Partch. "I think being a positive role model for the kids, and he had so much patience … he loved it."
The amount of love and support flooding the "In Memory of Greg Joelson" Facebook page doesn't surprise his friends or family.
"He's truly going to be missed by everybody, hundreds and hundreds, thousands of people," said his sister Karen Wolfe.
Joelson grew up performing, his siblings said.
Jacie Knight, artistic director and founder at Youth Performance Company, had known Joelson since he was 14 and saw him grow into a "beautiful adult."
"It's great to see these kids we work with grow up to be these great adults," Knight said. "I felt really proud of him, a lot of admiration for him. It's really clear how many, many young people were inspired by Greg. That's such a great legacy for his life work.
"Other kids are going to carry on his spirit. You can't really ask for anything more than that," Knight added.
His love for theater eventually led Joelson to South View Middle School and Edina High School, where he helped direct and choreograph shows.
When Matthes started to direct at Edina High, he needed a choreographer. He was introduced to Joelson, who choreographed "Once on This Island." A play that originally had 12 characters ended up having 36.
"He wasn't afraid to jump right in," Matthes said. "He understood that we were a school, and we were trying to create opportunities. It was just awesome."
A few of Joelson's students plan to teach his family the "Greg step," a dance move they learned from him. "I really want to know what it is," Partch said.
Matthes said Joelson had a positive impact on the students. Even when rehearsals were not stellar, he'd find a way to be optimistic.
Joelson was involved in many shows, including "Steel Magnolias," "School House Rock Live," "The Sound of Music," "Honk! The Musical," "Where the Girls Are" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
"Anybody that ever met Greg, loved Greg," Wolfe said.
In addition to his sisters Penny and Karen, Joelson is survived by a brother, Kris Jensen, and another sister, Kim Williams.
Memorial services have been held, but the Youth Performance Company will hold a memorial program on March 2. For more information, contact the Youth Performance Company at 612-623-9180.