I'm Joe's oldest son, Joe. In addition to being my father, Dad was my hero and my friend. He was an incredible role model for my sister Amy, my brother Mike and I and our spouses, as well as to his sister, his 9 grandchildren and to his nieces and nephews, to his cousins, to our in-laws and all of his family and his friends – all of whom he loved dearly. He was a man of faith and relied on that in good times and in bad. He was an outstanding firefighter for nearly 50 years and an accomplished leader both in the business and the communities he served. I think two of his proudest accomplishments were his family and his service to Washington Township and to the larger Bergen County community. The incredible turnout for these services have really helped support my family and I and I know my Dad is looking down extremely grateful and genuinely humbled to see how many lives he's touched.
Dad was a great family man, a trusted and loyal friend to many, a selfless person and a devoted and faithful husband to my Mom, his childhood sweetheart, his best friend and his wife of 45 years. He was also a loving and caring brother to his sister Joanne and his brother John. My father lost his dad when he was a teenager and despite that tragedy, he was able to establish a very high standard for raising, providing for and leading a family.
Dad taught us many things, including the importance of helping others, treating others how you wanted to be treated, conducting yourself as a gentleman or a lady at all times and to never give up. I could go on and on about my father and what a great man he was, however in keeping in step with father Brian, I will try to keep this relatively brief.
My father loved people and he would often open his home to friends, both old and new. My sister, my brother and I would often have to compete for vacation weeks at his shore house with some of his new friends – such as the landscaper, the plumber and the pool guy to name a few. He was a great judge of character and if he liked you, you had a new vacation destination on the water at the Jersey Shore.
Dad had multiple hobbies and interests and throughout his life he would relentlessly pursue new things that intrigued him. The thing though was that when he developed a new interest, rather than dipping his toes in the water, he would immediately dive into the deep end...often with his clothes on:
For instance, take the time that he decided that he would like to heat our house on his own, via natural resources. Within a few weeks, he had a wood burning stove installed in our basement, a log splitter that could have been mistaken for a missile launcher parked in our driveway, a top of the line monstrosity of a chainsaw and 6 cords of firewood staged in our backyard and garage. Now being that Dad was a firefighter, my brother, sister and I felt pretty comfortable the day that he invited us down the basement for the inaugural fire. Things started out well enough but my father failed to clear the chimney of cold air and the situation quickly deteriorated. Within minutes, heavy smoke was billowing out of the front and sides of the stove. My father calmly began suggesting that my brother and sister get on the ground and cover our mouths while he franticly tried to resolve the situation. His efforts were futile though and a few minutes later he sent us across the street our neighbors house and shortly after that the “all hands siren” sounded, triggering the KDR437 call and summoning Washington Township's bravest and finest to Calvin Street. His fellow firemen and his children gave him a hard time about that one and rightfully so and Dad laughed about that after the fact.
When I was in college, I remember my mother telling me during a phone call that Dad was thinking about buying a boat. The summer following the conversation with my mother, my Dad had a 30-foot power boat with twin 454 engines accompanied by a massive trailer and he had his truck outfitted with a heavy tow package. The early days with that boat and my father at the helm brought my mom, my siblings and I plenty of upset stomachs. We used to dread returning to the marina because parking this vessel was clearly outside of my dad's capabilities at that time and more often than not a nightmarish game of bumper boats would ensue. Boat owners from neighboring slips would emerge to seemingly to provide helping hands and my dad would always say that everyone was so nice there, but in hindsight, they really were as scared as we were and looking to protect their investments! He went on to become the Commissioner of a local power boating association and he organized a major event focused helping handicapped children. That was my dad, constantly trying new things, meeting new friends and helping others in the process.
He loved giving of himself to the community. He did so as a volunteer firefighter, serving his early years in Saddle Brook, followed by 40+ years at the Washington Township fire department where he was also a two-time fire chief. He also served as the Washington Township Fire Director, as the Washington Township Police and Office of Emergency Management Director, as a member of the Bergen County 200 Club and as an officer at the NJSPCA. He loved coaching and teaching children about sports and he did so tapping into his prolific playing days at St. Cecelias HS in Englewood where he was an All State running back. He volunteered at our schools, serving as a member of the Bergen Catholic Crusader Touchdown Club and on the Board of Directors at Immaculate Heart Academy.
My father was an extremely hard worker. He worked his early years at Palisades Amusement Park with his brother John and his Dad and then he went on to have a great career in construction, starting as an electrician in Local 164 and ultimately overseeing and managing some of the most important projects as a vice president at Star-Lo Electric. He also thoroughly enjoyed his involvement in the Catskill Pheasantry where he loved bringing his dog Jesse. He considered both Star-Lo and the Pheasantry as well as the Washington Township fire house, homes away from home. My father truly enjoyed his career and loved the people who he worked with so much so that he continued working there through the majority of his treatments and until just a few weeks ago.
He met great people and established strong friendships in all of these roles. Many of you are present here today.
I know I speak for my mother, my brother, my sister and our entire family when I say that my father inspired each of us to do great things and he taught us the right way to go about conducting ourselves. He will be missed greatly by all of us, but I take comfort in the fact that he is with God in Heaven now, looking down on us and smiling, proud of his family and friends and all that he accomplished.
Mom, Dad loved you more than anything and while this loss is incredibly painful, please know that he is always with you and your children are with you as well.
I would like to close with a quote from Arab poet and philosopher, Khalil Gibran
"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
Dad, I love you. Thank you for everything.