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Happiness was Just a Guy Named Joe

I often write of individuals honored for their exemplary contributions to the community. The legendary Ethel Waters in the Broadway/Movie blockbuster Cabin in the Sky sang “Happiness is a just a thing called Joe” This column is dedicated to Joe Sgroi, a relatively unsung hero, a retired bus driver, a Gravesend homeowner and probably the nicest and happiest guy you would ever want to meet. Joe and his late wife Marie epitomized the happy loving couple whose family devotion was inherited by their offspring JoAnne, Anthony and Michael, their spouses John Carbonaro, Virginia and Dana, and especially the eleven beautiful grandchildren: Carbonaro twins John and Thomas, Nicole and Lauren, Joseph, Kristin, Matthew and Marie Sgroi, and Alexa Maria, Michael Joseph and Vanessa Sgroi.

Joe’s devotion to his 96 year old mother Carmela, sisters Josephine, Lucy and Carmela and his brothers-in-law Carmine, Paul, and Vinny coupled with the enormous love and respect for Marie’s family are carried through his children’s closeness to their parents’ families.His late mother-in-law Carmela Cervone, son Vinny and wife Diana, his sister-in-law Lilly and husband Joe Guitian all lived right across the street on West 8th Street.It would take several columns to mention all the cousins - it’s a great, big, wonderful, happy family. Sharon and I have been in their family circle for 14 years ever since Michael married my Dana. Due to the sad circumstances of the death of this much beloved individual, we met many of the relatives and friends at Joe’s wake and the unbelievable funeral luncheon at the magnificent Marina Del Rey in the Bronx.

Joe Sgroi at 77 succumbed to an aneurysm alone in his apartment, just hours before he was to get additional tests from his doctor. The sudden death of this vital heartbroken family man, who just started to enjoy a new life with his lovely lady friend Dolores, was a traumatic shock to us all.The Sgroi’s family and friends immediately crowded the chapels at Miraglia Chapels on 86th St. Nick Miraglia, an old friend of this column and an ally in the Big Screecher noise battles, was meticulous in all the funeral arrangements and even provided bottled water for the visitors. The Chapel filled with beautiful floral pieces and wreaths of every size and shape. A huge floral piece given by the Cervone cousins in the shape of the B5 Bus that Joe drove for many years had Joe’s photo behind the wheel.Along side it, a Stairway to Heaven piece leading up to an angel from his sons and daughter. I never saw anything like it before, it was stunning! JoAnne made sure that yellow roses, her mother’s favorites were on the extraordinary piece. His kids quickly put together two huge picture boards- all depicting a happy Joe with his family.

At the Funeral Mass, everyone gasped as his casket was brought down the Saint Finbar aisle to the alter, tears engulfing everyone’s eyes as the pall bearers were Joe’s eleven grand children. The youngest grandson Michael was at the head, who would have had his 4 year old sister Vanessa (the youngest grandchild), but Vanessa with her purple cast on her leg wascarried by her 23 year old cousin John alongside the casketA wonderful fitting tribute to a beloved grandfather whose biggest asset was the family he loved. Rest in peace Joe, we who knew you will miss you tremendously and those who weren’t fortunate to know you will never meet a nicer, happier, gentler man.

Screech at you next week!

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