Randolph. Joe Buttafuoco, 93, died on Friday, July 1, 2016 at home, in the company of the people he loved. He was born in East Paterson and lived in Brookyln, Wayne, and Mt. Arlington before moving to Randolph a year ago. He served in the US Navy during the second World War. He worked in quality control at New Dye, and on the trucking docks at Arrow Carrier, in addition to renovating The Mark Restaurant, The Millbrook Barn, The Black River Barn, The Pizza Pub, Cinders Wood Fire Grill, and The Rockaway River Barn, with his sons.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Millie; sons Jay, Glenn and Dean; daughter Janice Clark; brother Andy; two daughters in law, Lucille and Suzel; seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Family and friends are invited to celebrate Joe’s life at the Davis & Hepplewhite Funeral Home, 96 Main Street, Succasunna (973-584-7264) on Sunday, July 3, from 2:00pm – 6:00pm.
Please visit davishepplewhitefh.com for directions, and for the rest of Joe’s story on their obituaries page.
Joe had such a beautifully successful life.
He was born into a Sicilian-American family in 1923. He grew up with four brothers. When their parents divorced, their dad, a true renaissance man, raised the boys himself. Joe remembered his father as his hero, the best guy in the world, who cooked, kept house, worked full time, loved his kids like crazy, and was always immaculate in his dress.
Times got tough in America when Joe hit graduation from 8th grade. The depression was in full swing, and Joe, as well as most of his friends, went to work instead of high school, out of necessity. By pulling together, the family made it through the 1930’s.
Nineteen forty one saw the entry of the US into World War Two, and Joe answered the call of duty and adventure and enlisted in the Navy. He was trained as a gunner, and he was fortunate to receive stateside posts He was trained as a gunner at bases in the Great Lakes, Virginia and New Orleans, where, in his own words, he worked hard, and played just as hard. At the end of the war he was discharged and given 5 cents a mile by Uncle Sam to make his way home.
That’s where he found Millie. He always said it was love at first sight. “I saw her, and I asked the guy I was with who she was,” Joe reminisced, “He told me that was the girl he was dating. Well, I told him that was the girl I was going to marry!” He took her out. She really liked him, so she did what smart girls do; she went to check out his family. She met Joe’s dad, and she thought,”Wow, what a great guy! Maybe Joe will be just like him!” (Luckily, he was.) Then she did what all good girls did in those days; she brought him home so her family could check him out. They liked him. But then, what was there about Joe that anyone could have disliked?
Millie & Joe got married one fine June day in 1948. They had a church wedding in Hawthorne, and a nice big party afterwards. Millie’s nephew’s band played dance music. They had a honeymoon in Atlantic City, well before casinos, when it was a hotspot beach resort. Joe carried Millie over the threshold of their new home in the top floor of a two family house in Totowa. They started with nothing, Millie recalls. But they had gotten $200 in wedding presents, and they went out the next day and bought pots and pans. They spent every dime. Millie was worried, but Joe said to his new wife, for the first of what was to be about a million times, “Don’t worry about anything, Mil…everything is going to be fine. I’ll take care of it.” And for the first of what was to be about a million times, Millie put her faith in him, and she was not disappointed, for she had married a man who was humble, honest, perseverant, uncomplaining, wise, dedicated, respectful, full of fun, and truly noble.
Joe exemplified the word humble by never making himself out to be anything other than who he truly was. So many people spend their lives trying to get people to notice them, trying to be big shots of one sort or another. Not Joe.
Joe was unquestionably, unabashedly honest. He called every ball exactly as he saw it. He told his truth all the time, quietly and clearly, without arrogance, and with no drama. His life, uncomplicated by design, afforded him the privilege of being able to tell his truth from the mountaintops whenever he wanted, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.
Joe was perseverant beyond words. He just kept going. He was like one of those great big iron freight engines that just kept pulling along. He worked long and steadily. Pretty quietly, too, except when something needed to be said, and then he was an eloquent man of few words. He preferred to do things than to be busy talking about them.
And he never, ever, ever complained. Everything was always great, according to Joe. Everything was great whether things were smooth, or desperately, totally messed up. Everything was great whether he or anyone else was the picture of health or a mental or physical wreck. Everything was great whether he had all the time in the world or the deadline was yesterday. His optimism and refusal to admit that anything could get in his way was really something else.
Joe, in his wisdom, had a really great sense of who was trustworthy and who wasn’t. He had infinite patience for those he trusted, and none at all for those who were sheisters. He followed the rules after looking long and hard at the rules. If there was a nonsense rule, he left that one for other people to follow; he just went his own way, the way that was right according to his own conscience.
Joe’s dedication was legendary. Few people can put their minds to a task and accomplish it the way Joe could. He could block out everything else in order to make one thing work. For example, he bought, in 1970, an 11 acre vegetable farm in West Milford. He made it look like it was about having a great garden, but Millie and their kids always knew that deep down it was really more about the family’s doing a great thing all together. Joe decided that they were going to do this thing, and that nothing would get in the way. Joe’s teenagers didn’t “just hang out” for those springs and summers; they worked the farm. Joe was so steadfastly, cheerfully single minded that everyone followed along without question, certain that they were doing something important. And they were.
Joe understood respect. He was respectful, not just in the sense of saying the “right” and mannerly thing to people, but in the sense of actually HAVING respect for people; he listened with complete attention and truly considered what people had to say, he looked them in the eye and let them know that their thoughts mattered, that they were IMPORTANT. Seldom will we know anyone who is more deeply and expressively grateful for everything anyone does for them than Joe was. His thank you’s were always heartfelt, always sincere, and freely and liberally given.
Joe was uniquely fun. His fun was quiet, it took some brains to figure out, it was full of the laughter that comes from deep inside of you, the laughter that is happy with simple pleasures, things of nature and of the interesting things that people can do. His fun was spontaneous and everyday, part of the tide of life. He loved to go fishing. It was such easy fun, going to the pond. He taught his kids that it can be fun to just be there and wait, as long as you have good company. He taught them that they can be their own good company. There are still a few people left on the planet who are truly noble. They conduct themselves with integrity. They treat everyone like they want to be treated themselves, they offer compliments to all they meet and tell people they are doing a great job whenever they can. They listen thoughtfully to other people instead of thinking about the next thing their own selves are going to say. They are generous with all of the things that mean so much more than money. They smile in the face of difficult things because they know their own strength. They are the bringers of justice.They forgive when it is called for. They are loyal to those who help them and who demonstrate true goodness. Joe was one of them, one of the true nobility.
Joe showed Millie, and his kids, and all those lucky enough to know him, what it truly meant to be happy. That is the real meaning of success.
Joe and Millie were married for 68 years. Millie says “They all went by in a flash. That’s what happens when you get along. I had the best husband anyone ever could have wanted. I was so lucky. He was such a hard worker, and he just did whatever had to be done, without a word, without a second thought.”
They raised 4 children, Jay, Glenn, Janice and Dean, each of whom has found their own way to learn, utilize and teach Joe’s lessons of success.
Joe is survived not only by his wife, one brother, four children, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, but also by a world that is better for having known him.
He was an extraordinary man, and he will be distinctly missed.