Mr. Sunshine!

A Man Who Truly Brings Light To The Community.

Article by Don Seaman

Photography by Phillip Barone

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

It all started with a house fire.

Longtime Packanack resident Joe Rude came home late at night after spending a few hours in the ER from an injury suffered while working on a project at home. There was a fire spreading outside his home as his wife Paulette and four kids slept inside. He was fortunate to have gotten them all out, but they lost everything else. 

After their house was decimated, Joe got a call from one of his neighbors, a contractor (Rod Donnelly from Donnelly Construction). He had a house available for them to use as they righted themselves and rebuilt their lives.

“We’re going to make it all green,” he told him. “I don’t care what color you’re going to paint it…” Joe responded. “No, no — we’re going to put solar on it, do geothermal, that sort of thing.” Extenuating circumstances led them to not taking him up on the offer, but a seed was planted.

As a Wayne police officer, Joe was well aware of the support that existed in town, but he’d never experienced it quite like he did that day. His affable nature and habit of always putting his community first assured that people would rally around the family. And honestly, his son, Garrett, might be even more well-known in the neighborhood than Joe. A special-needs child with Down’s Syndrome, Garrett is captivating. 

So because of their family situation, the Rudes have to consider everything that goes into their home, including adding solar to help reduce their expenses. He’d recently retired from the police force, so Joe started looking into his own personal development as he transitioned into his next career. Kismet took over, and he’d found himself in touch with a company that planned to put solar on two million homes by 2025. The stars were aligning to make solar his next career.

Taking this path led to Joe founding his own solar franchise, PaneltheEarth, LLC ( He works with homeowners and local businesses to reclaim their own energy narrative and live more sustainably. And as costs begin to mount in the face of rapid inflation, adopting solar for your home isn’t just saving the green of the planet — it can help to save the green in your wallet.

Ultimately, Joe would like to expand his business to the point where he can dedicate more of the focus to special needs families like his own. Like his Wayne community, the special needs community is near and dear to the entire Rude family. They’re intimately aware of all the challenges that these people face on a daily basis. With his solar business, Joe feels as though he’s found a valuable way to help them — and anyone who’s interested — to bring a little sunshine into their lives.

And really, what better partner can you have than the biggest source of energy in our solar system?

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