A giant of a man sat quietly on a folding chair by the door of a soup kitchen, trying to go unnoticed, rubbing a small tattoo on his hand almost impulsively, as if it were a bad memory.
Joe Bednarsky Jr. has plenty of both.
People filed into the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Millville with a “Hey, Joe” before heading off to the spaghetti and meatballs, and Bednarsky smiled and said hello with a mastiff’s timbre he also couldn’t hide.
Mostly, his blue eyes followed the pastor serving food, but when Bednarsky stood to hug a man struggling with depression, his 6-foot-6-inch, 330-pound frame made him look like a marble pillar.
“I love you, brother,” he told the man, who clung to him.
Bednarsky, 49, didn’t hug black people when he was younger. He hurt them. He burned crosses on their lawns and called them the N-word, and it took him a long time, some of it in jail, to figure out what made him do it.