I received the call last night that Uncle Joey
died. He was actually my great uncle. Growing up, Joey and Kathy lived on Fisk Street which was next to 42nd Street…Lawrenceville was one of those neighborhood enigmas where a strategically placed street often showed up throwing off the numerical alignment. Uncle Joey was a happy guy; always smiling, always a kind word to
say. Christmas night at Gram’s would become a bit brighter when Joey would enter the tiny house on 42nd. How on earth we fit dozens of people into that little dwelling never ceases to amaze me.
He had two sons, my cousins, Kenny and Moe. Although I haven’t seen them in years, they were always a lot like their dad: funny, happy, content. Uncle Joey was devoted to his beloved wife Kathy. I remember him always looking after her to make sure she was okay. He looked after us that way too. Uncle Joe’s “job”was to grill the boyfriends about their spending habits: did they make enough money; would they show him their checkbook
balance? He joked but wanted to be sure we were taken care of. When I
brought my fiancé to Pittsburgh for the first time, Uncle Joey looked at him and
whispered to me “Suse, normally I’d ask to see his wallet. But he’s too big.”
At a time when many people look inward wondering what’s the next big thing, the next payoff, the next "what's in it for me," Uncle Joey looked outward to make sure the people he loved – his family– were okay. He made a difference to us. My mom will never forget all those years ago when Uncle Joey returned from the war with a special gift for her…a red and white dress that he bought for her overseas. During the depression, having a new dress was a treasure for a little girl; but having a favored uncle think of you while fighting in a war must have been a such a source of pride. That's the two of them in the above photo at a family picnic. That's how Joey always looked: happy, peaceful, content.
After Kathy’s death, more than three years ago, Uncle Joey would visit the cemetery…every single day. Seven days a week, he would rise, visit the cemetery with a group of widowers and then have breakfast. Uncle Joey wanted to start his day off with his precious wife, long after her death.
I don’t remember Joey ever asking for anything in return. But he received it;
because he will live on in our memories as a faithful, loyal and devoted man,
one whose family was a source of pride and determination. A man who had everything he wanted, everything he needed: a life of joy, simplicity, values and
faith. I doubt he realized how much his small gestures meant to us and honestly, I doubt he would care. Because Joey didn't do things for accolades, he lived the way he lived because it was the right thing to do. He lived the way he lived because he was true to himself.
The world needs more men like my Uncle Joey. May he rest for eternity the way he lived…in