It's already been two years since you gave us the most beautiful day of our lives. I am forever thankful for such a special wedding day. Thank you for all that you did to make it what it was - absolutely perfect in every way. We miss you and think of you each and every day. Love you!!! xoxo
I was honored to reflect on Joe's life at his funeral service. For those of you who were not able to attend, I wanted to share with you my final words about my Brother.
For many people, this is just a cliché, but in Joe's case, it was oh so true. This world was a far, far better place with Joe Agozzino in it. I had the privilege of having a front row seat to witness, watch, live and be with one of the most caring and giving persons that God has put on this good Earth. The long lines that people stood in during his wake to honor and say good bye to my Brother were testament to a life lived the right way.
The stories about Joe that people shared with me since his passing confirmed what I already knew. Joe was the type of person who always put others before himself, offering his help in any way that he could. If times were difficult, he was the first person on the scene to lend his support. And, it didn't matter who you were, all that Joe cared about was whether you needed his help. He touched the lives of so, so many people in a positive way. And, we are all richer for having known him.
For those who didn't meet Joe until his later years, his story began on West 73rd in Cleveland, a block away from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We were raised by our father Calogero and mother Leonarda. He spent the next 20 plus years roaming those streets. He came to loving refer to this place as the Neighborhood. Joe had a saying, you can take the kid out of the Neighborhood, but you can't take the Neighborhood out of the kid. And, that was true of Joe. This Mt. Carmel Neighborhood remained a part of him long after he moved away to start his family.
As kids, we thought we had everything, and in reality we did. We were blessed with parents who wanted nothing more than to help pave the way for a better life. Joe and I never stopped telling stories about all the pranks we pulled with our friends, the Isabellas, Mancos, Simeones, Vedovas, Benders, Bencievengos, Parentes, DiMassas, Bambinos, Capassos, DeMarcos, Minerds, Iasellos, Rocks, Santillos, Antonnucis, Morabitos, and Mulgrews(yes, we welcomed only the special Irish into our group).
But the focal point was always our family. Our parents scrimped and saved and it was a lesson Joe learned early in life and served him well to the very end. One of the first things we learned was work. My father put Joe to work at the ice cream stand at a very early age (there must not have been child labor laws on the books back then). Joe would rise early in the morning to go to our ice cream stand -- the Kustard Kastle--to help my mother whip up some of her homemade Italian lemon ice, a Neighborhood favorite. And, then came the years at Fazios, where we worked side by side in the produce department.
His early years were filled with much more than work, it is when Joe learned about Love of Family – and that the Family always came first. To an outsider, our family might seem small, but it extended block away and included Josephine, Maria Carmela, Charlie and Joe and later on Bernadette, and all our Zios and Zias. They were constants in Joe's life. There was no need for holidays to get together, it was a nightly ritual. Our home was their home and their home was ours. They were our brothers and sisters who happened to live a block away. And, even as Joe grew older, his cousins never stopped being a part of his life.
And, our family didn't end on Detroit Avenue. It reached far North to Toronto. As kids, we looked forward to going to visit our Uncle Giovanni to spend time with our cousins, Joe, Vince, Leo, Pina and Charlie, cramming 5 people to a bed. But we didn't care, because we were with our family. We would play Italian cards all night long, and of course, feast on my Aunt Nicolina's incredible cooking. The Toronoto Weddings were lengendery and were always don't miss opportunties to kick back and recount stories about years past. They were all so much a part of Joe's life.
Joe also had an unshakeable faith in God. That is not surprising; he had great role models in Father Vincent, Father Marino and Brother Richard at Mt. Carmel. He stood on this very alter countless hours as an altar boy. It was always a special day if the nuns tagged you for funeral mass because it meant getting out of class and, if you played your cards right, you could stretch it out until afternoon recess. It is also where Joe had his first taste of alcohol – the alter wine of course.
Mt. Carmel served Joe in another important way; it is where he met Annie – the love of his life. They attended kindergarten together, but Annie moved away. They were reunited later in life, again at Mt. Carmel during one of the infamous CYO summer trips. They dated, fell in love and were married – guess where, that's right, it was here at Mt. Carmel.
When Joe married Annie, Joe's family immediately got much bigger.
• Vince and Millie Mattucci were like second set of parents for Joe and it where his love of affair for wrestling began.
• He gained brothers in Danny, Seamus, Rich and Doug.
• And what can I say about the Mattucci sisters, Terri, Toni, Gina, --I can't remember the last time that I was over Joe's house when one of them wasn't sitting at the kitchen table.
As an Uncle, Joe was simply amazing. He was everywhere
• Basketball, football, baseball, wresting, gymnastics, track, school plays and even piano recitals,
• There was Uncle Joe, sitting and watching, yelling at the officials if a call went against his niece or nephew.
• He had a unique way of making each of them feel special.
But his life was incomplete until he had his children, Lia, Charlie and Rocky
• I look at them and see Joe.
• Lia – She was the apple of her Dad's eye. She could never do any wrong. He brimmed with pride on the day he walked her down the aisle at Mt.Carmel on her wedding day to welcome Micha into his family
• Charlie – He could not be any prouder than when he sent you off to college at Cornell. Charlie's determination, hard work and never give up attitude are so much like his Dad's.
• Rocky – What can I say? His stubbornness and hard head are so Joe-like, but that is what you get when decide to name your son Rocky.
• But seriously Rocky, you more than anyone remind me of Joe, especially watching you the during the last month, comforting your mother, worried about your siblings and asking me constantly – what can I do for you Uncle Leo? Those words – “what can I do for you” – were the words that I heard Joe use so many times.
As I stood in the receiving line at his memorial service, a sitcom popped into my mind: Everybody Loves Raymond. There is no question that Joe was Raymond because everybody who Joe came into contact with loved Joe. And, that love was on display throughout the memorial service. I thank each and every one of you who stood in those long lines to tell me how much you cared for him.
His friend and family have filled this Church like Christmas Eve. We come not to say goodbye because he will always be remembered. We are here to say Thank You Joe for all that you did.
Some of you were lucky enough to be on Joes' text list. We came to describe his texting as Agotext, where he would send updates of scores for virtually any sporting event, especially when his Eagles were playing. It matter not that his kids had long ago graduated.
That brings me to Joe's next love, second only to his Family (or at least most of the time). That is St. Eds. Someone said to me, if God doesn't have a wrestling team in heaven, Joe is going to get one started. He would drop off St. Eds gear to each cousin, cousin's child, nephew and countless others, to ensure that St. Eds was their first choice. Attending a SE sporting event with Joe, was like going to a game with a rock star. He knew everyone. I was always – This is Joe's little brother Leo. It would take a half hour to get to our seats as he had to stop and ask
• How is Johnny doing in college?
• Do you need tickets for the next game?
• How are your parents doing?
• Did the T-Shirts fit?
• Do we have enough sponsoring families for the summer camps?
It was unbelievable. Joe is also responsible for coining the phrase when referring to our rival as the “School Across from Wendy's.” I learned early on to never set up a family function during the Holy War or the state wrestling meet. Joe had other commitments on those days.
In closing, the best way I can describe Joe is to reflect on what he meant to me. He taught me how to be:
• A Devoted son
• A Loving father
• Doting husband
• Caring Uncle and
• Giving friend
I refuse to say Good Bye. My thoughts will turn to Joe each and every time I watch a Browns, Cavs, Indians or Monster's game. I will always hold a seat open for Joe. In my lifetime, a Cleveland team will one day win a Championship. And when they do, I will look upwards and see Joe's smiling face.
I love you Joe. You were my Champion. Joes WIN AGAIN.
Sorry for your loss. From reading the many entries, Joe was a special person and a loved life. May he rest in God;s Peace.
Anne and family,
My prayers are with you.
I am proud to have known Joe.
My deepest sympathy is extended to the Agozzino family. Joe was a fantastic person and a good friend. I had the pleasure of traveling and spending time with Joe as our kids wrestled. He will be missed so much.