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Joe Polito
(Barney Bear)

 
GENEVA - Joseph R. Polito, 74, of High Banks, passed away peacefully on Thursday (September 20, 2012) surrounded by his loving family at Highland Hospital.
          Friends may call at the DeVaney-Bennett Funeral Home, 181 N. Main St., Geneva on Tuesday (Sept. 25) from 4 - 8 p.m. Members of Winnek Post #396 American Legion will meet at the funeral home at 6:30 p.m. for a service for their departed brother. Members of the Sons of Italy will meet at 7 p.m. for a service for their departed brother.
          Funeral services will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday (Sept. 26) at the funeral home and 10 a.m. at St. Francis deSales Church. Burial will be at the convenience of the family.
          Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 811 West Evergreen Ave. Suite 204, Chicago, ILL. 60642.

           Joseph was born in Buffalo, NY. He was the son of the late Charles and Grace Tramontana Polito. Joseph graduated from Lafayette High School in Buffalo and was a member of the TZT fraternity. He graduated from the University of Buffalo. He worked for All-State Insurance for 38 years and never took a sick day. Joseph was a former councilman for the Town of Fayette. He was a member of the Per Niente Club in Buffalo. Joseph was also a member of the Sons of Italy and the Winnek Post #396 American Legion. He was the #1 Buffalo Bills Fan and had attended all four of their Super Bowl appearances. He was also an avid Syracuse fan.
           He is survived by his loving wife: Louise Polito of Geneva; son: Charles Polito of Rochester; daughters: Rene (Joe) Haskins, Denise (Rob) Howell, and Michelle (J.R.) Gmeinweiser all of Rochester; brothers: Charles (Janelle) Polito of Atlanta, GA and Louis (Kathy) Polito of Buffalo; sisters: Ann Carroll and Marge (Nils) Hjalmarson; sister-in-law: Dolly Polito; mother-in-law: Louise Lawson of Geneva; 10 grandchildren: Michael (Mya) Haskins, Joshua Haskins, Kyle (Christina) Haskins, Allysa Haskins, Tyler Haskins, Nicholas Haskins, Josiah Haskins, Lilyana Haskins, Justin Gmeinweiser, and Reanne Gmeinweiser; several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
           He was predeceased by his brother, Anthony Polito.

 
This Eulogy was given at the Mass by Joe and Louise's cousin, Mary Beth George.

                    Good Morning……. On behalf of the Lawson and Polito families, we are glad you are all here.

            Today we are left to mourn someone who was the heart and soul of our family.  We are left to mourn someone who was ALWAYS there for any of us when we needed him.  Joe Polito was our rock, our voice of reason, our confidant, our friend. . . . Yet, despite our sorrow, we're glad that his suffering is over and that he is now at peace. 

            Joe died, with dignity, and that taught us patience and acceptance.  Sometimes, he grew frustrated with his illness and that showed us his humanity.  Death, when it came, came as a friend. 

            That is fitting because Joe Polito was a friend to so many during his lifetime.  He was a man full of fun and laughter and he lit up a room by his presence.  If there was a story to tell or a song to sing, Joe was the one responsible.  His presence was the oil that made family life full of good humor.

            Joe was more than just Joe.  He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a husband, a grandfather, but most importantly a father.  And in each of those roles he played a part.  And however we knew him, he meant something different to each and every one of us and THAT is one of the great mysteries of life.  If ten of us were to describe him, we would all say something different yet some of the descriptors would be common, like: kind, compassionate, loving, funny, generous, family oriented, free spirited, respectful and a true gentle-man.

            I sat with his family a few nights ago and asked for a few stories. And one that stood out with me was when Joe and his brother Charlie were little boys, they had a paper route together, and their routine was that one of them would deliver the paper and one of them would pick up the money. But I found out that even when they didn’t feel like delivering the paper, they still picked up the money!  I guess they didn’t really realize back then the concept of better business . . . but looking ahead more than 60 years, Joe did learn the concept of better business and developed a work habit like no other, as he worked for Allstate Insurance for 38 years, and NEVER took one sick day, something he was, and deserved to be, very proud of.

            When Joe retired from Allstate he became a councilman for the town of Varick, at which time Joe requested that we address him as the Honorable Joe Polito.  The meetings were held once a month and Joe received a small stipend for his role on council.  He was then offered a traveling job with Allstate which had him away from home for months at a time.  So even though he would have to miss many of his council meetings, the “Honorable Joe Polito” still received his stipend check from the town council.  Unlike his paper route when he was a young boy, although Joe would still take his checks, he donated each of them to the Beverly Animal Shelter in Waterloo.

            When Joe and  Louise first met, Louise brought him to a family get-together, and his being the new kid on the Angelo Street block, and we being protective cousins of Louise, we all took a step back to figure out if Joe was good enough for Louise . . . I think we probably went into executive session at some point to discuss Joe! . . . And while the jury was still out, Joe sat with my Uncle Jo-Jo (who had Downs syndrome) and the conversation went something like this . . . Jo-Jo said . . . "Ya know Joe,  HER used to go out with a guy named Jon . . .  I really liked him . . . HER doesn’t see him anymore . . . YOU'RE probably next! 

            I am sure in Jo-Jo’s own way that was his underlying feeling that Joe Polito would be taking Louise’s time and attention away from him . . . Jo-Jo was testing the waters in his own way.

            Well, as it turned out, after the executive session ended with my cousins, it was unanimous . . . Joe Polito was voted in!  And believe me, that’s not always an easy task!

            None of us could figure out the wedding plans or the wedding day, because in talking with the two of them, they both had the same story . . . that neither of them asked each other to get married.  Yet on November 7, 1981 the vows were exchanged . . . And a life of love, laughter and friendship began.

            Joe and Louise prided themselves on the fact that after 31 years of marriage, they were still best friends, and best friends they were!

            So, Joe Polito became a part of our family . . . and may I say a huge part of our family.  He was now OUR cousin . . . he was a nephew, he was a son in law . . . oh, and Louise was still our cousin too!  When there were family get-togethers, we would all look for Joe . . . oh, and Louise too . . . when there were parties, we’d all invite Joe . . . "oh yeah, and don’t forget to bring Louise too".   I’d call out to their house and ask Joe if he wanted to go out for chicken wings and wine, and I'd say . . . "oh, and ya might want to see if Louise wants to go, too"!

            There were many holidays that Louise and Joe would host, with 30 plus people sitting down for dinner, Louise would do the cooking, have both stoves going . . . because we all know the “real stove” in an Italian house is in the basement . . . She would be setting tables, stirring the beans, basting the turkeys, making the stuffing, tossing the salads . . .

            Joe, of course, would be watching football, yelling at the TV screen . . . and after hours of preparation and a feast fit for a king, we would all sit down to a huge meal and thank Joe Polito . . . oh, and Louise too!

            There was a time when my Uncle Tommy introduced Joe and Louise to a few of his friends, and Tommy said.. “Id like you to meet my nephew Joe . . . and his wife Louise”.

            Joe always joked with Louise and would say, “ya know if anything ever happens between the two of us, you realize it will be YOUR fault, and nobody would like you anymore".

            So it always went like this . . . Joe Polito . . . oh, and Louise too.  But Louise, always remember that you were the wind beneath Joe’s wings, the love of his life, his best friend!

            I am sure Joe never thought of himself as an inspiration to us.  I am sure he never considered that he was an example to us.  But I can say he was a great inspiration to me.  When I lost my dad ten years ago, Joe never skipped a beat.  I’ll never forget his sitting beside me and saying . . . "whatever you need, whenever you need it, consider it done.  I’ll fill your Dad’s shoes as best I can in what ever capacity is necessary".  And he did just that.  When fun things would happen in my life, I’d call Joe Polito and he would giggle with me, when serious things would happen, I’d call Joe  and he became my voice of reason, when tragic things would happen, I’d call Joe and he was right where I needed him.  It was just a given that no matter the circumstance, Joe would appear.

             Of course, there was a time before Louise, before our family, before Angelo Street and those times include his children, Renee, Michelle, Denise and Charlie.  You were all the light of his life.  His eyes would always sparkle when he spoke about any of you, and they lit up even more when he would talk about his grandchildren.  He used to love to have the house full with the Polito children and the ten grandchildren.  Those were his brightest days.

            His children shared with me that even though Joe wasn’t living in the house, he was always there on Christmas morning, never missed a birthday or a holiday while the kids were growing up, and was present for every school function and activity . . . AND when he showed up at Denise’s high school graduation he took tons of pictures, what a proud Dad . . . but it was of the wrong girl crossing the stage!

            Denise also shared with me one of her most memorable times with her dad was when they went to Woolworths together and Denise was about 7 years old.  She had on her MOST FAVORITE outfit . . . lime-green shorts and a lime-green halter top.  They shopped around, purchased what they needed and when they got back in the car, they were going through their goodies in the shopping bag.  Joe was trying to open this little tube of something, and was struggling and asked Denise for help, and when she tried to help him the tube exploded and colored ink went all over her favorite outfit . . .  Denise became hysterical.  Little did she know it was invisible ink, and a joke her Dad was trying to play on her . . . obviously a joke gone wrong, and she cried all the way home.

            Renee reminisced about the time her son had to have surgery when he was two years old . . . They got to the hospital WAY IN ADVANCE in the early morning hours.   Her husband was taking a snooze in the car, Renee was in the waiting room, and she remembers feeling so anxious about what was lying ahead of her with her son’s surgery, and had such a sense of fear.   When she turned to take a walk down the hallway, there was her Dad.   She said once she saw his face, and got a big hug from him, she knew everything would be A-OK. 

            Joe’s son Charlie went to most of the Buffalo Bills football games with him and that was priceless time that Joe and his son spent together . . . and by “time” I mean 15-18 hour days, when they would leave the house at 7 in the morning for a 1 o’clock game… Buffalo Bills Fans??  I think so!

            Michele called her dad every day at five o’clock.  And one day when I was visiting, Joe and I were in the living room, Louise was upstairs ironing something . . . the clock struck five, the phone rang, Louise yelled down “Joe, answer the phone, its Michelle”.   And Joe said to me, "here’s what you're going to hear me say when I pick up the phone" . . . “Hi honey, I feel good, yeah, I ate lunch at one, no, we haven’t eaten dinner yet, and no, didn’t really do a lot today, just hung around".   He then picked up the phone, said hello, and I hear, “Hi, honey, I feel good, yup, I ate lunch at 1, no we haven’t eaten dinner yet, no, I really didn’t do a lot today, just hung around”.  And what he DIDN’T recite was his closing comment, when I heard him say to Michele . . . "I LOVE YOU MORE!!!"

            I am so proud to say we're a blended family . . . One big blended family.  And we were all brought together because of Joe Polito . . . Oh and Louise too!

             So today we mourn for someone who was a huge huge part of ALL of our lives.  I find it hard to imagine what it's going to be like not to have him around, and my heart is so terribly heavy.

            Joe suffered but now his suffering has ended.  He is now at peace and that is a fitting end to a wonderful life.  Someday, Joe Polito, we will meet again . . . But until that day, we will remember you and be glad that we knew and loved you, but more importantly, that you knew and loved us . . . and YOU loved us more!   

            I hope when you arrived at heaven’s gates you were greeted with a bottle of wine, a bowl of pasta and Bob George waiting to sing “Hey coomattie” with you!

           May you rest in peace…We all love you!  

 

  

Many went to Lafayette, and the photo includes TZT brothers:
Sam Liotta
, Tom Groff, John Gugino, Joe, and Joe Cardinale.

     

1953 Pledge Class of TZT
Joe is in the bottom row, second from right.

 

Joe's Senior photo in the
Lafayette Oracle Yearbook ~ 1955

 

Photo from the 1955 Lafayette High School Oracle Yearbook, of the 1954 LHS varsity football team.
 Joe is Number 22 in the bottom row.  TZT Fraternity Brother Dick M. Vara is Number 21, standing.

     

Sam Liotta and Joe reading
the Lafayette Triangle ~ 1956

Joe (at left) in Angie and Ange's
Wedding Party ~ 1961

Bob, Ange, Joe, Dick, Chuck, Sam and John
at Dick's retirement ~ 2001

 

Bob, Dick, John
Joe, Sam and Ange at Sam's 65th birthday ~ 2002

 

Joe and Louise
at TZT's Las Vegas Reunion ~ 2002

Joe and Louise appeared in
the April  issue of Smart Money Magazine ~ 2006
 

 

Joe, Bob Mangano, Chuck Raccuia, Frank D'Arrigo and Ange Coniglio at a Buffalo Bills game ~ 2009

  

 
 

TZT Fraternity Brother "Big" Sam Genco sent these thoughts about Joe. 
I think they speak for all of us.

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