The skinny Italian teen-ager paid no heed to the pleadings of Mrs. Sacco. Her young son couldn’t sleep amid all the noise from her neighbor’s yard, so on a sultry summer night during the Depression, she flung open the window of her Hoboken home and launched a series of verbal hand grenades:
“Stop all that horrible singing!
Go away you bums, go getta job!”
But the skinny teen and his friends kept right on singing and, in the end, Frank Sinatra made a pretty decent career of it, had a pretty decent life.
And, in truth, the same could be said of Joseph Tony Sacco, who departed his earthly domain for a more heavenly domicile at 2:53 a.m. on Thursday, November 30 – passing peacefully at New Jersey’s Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, where he had spent the last 3 years.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on July 24, 1927 – the same year Babe Ruth slugged 60 homers – Joe Sacco, it could be said, also hit a good many home runs in a rich, full, productive life that spanned 90 years, 4 months and 6 days.
But his home runs all had names: beloved daughters Diane and Barbara; cherished sons Joseph and Keith; treasured son-in-law Stephen Pannone and daughter-in-law Donna Sacco; seven prized grandchildren and, of course, the crown jewel in his family treasure chest – Anna, his precious, adored wife of 67 years whom he loved and worshiped beyond all rational boundaries. These, he would proudly remark to anyone within earshot, are “the pearls of my life.”
The son of Italian immigrants, Joe Sacco – devoted, life-long Catholic – enlisted in the Army fresh out of high school and, after serving his country, began a long and colorful career driving a bus through the streets of America’s mostly densely populated square mile – also known as Hoboken.
If Ralph Kramden was the fictional bus driver of the American imagination, Joe Sacco was his real-life counterpart. And like his fictional Honeymooning twin, Joe, it might be said, could sometimes be bombastic, belligerent and bull-headed, a man who stubbornly insisted on doing things a certain way. Yet he would never dream of sending Anna to the moon – only to his heart, which, at bottom, was a pure, solid 16 karats.
How big was his heart?
Big enough to rush to son Keith’s football games after 12 grueling hours behind the wheel.
Big enough to personally evaluate – sometimes maddeningly so – every engine of every car every one of his children ever purchased.
Big enough that come some Saturdays before Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving he would accompany daughter Barbara to take food collected by their church and distribute it to the poor and needy.
Big enough that when daughter Diane was sick with cancer he’d leave his home at 7 a.m., drive an hour through snarled traffic and stay until her husband arrived 10 hours later, so she wouldn’t be scared, so she would never be alone.
Who would rush out to save passengers in a burning bus trapped inside the Lincoln Tunnel?
Who loved animals so much he would routinely round up stray dogs and cats wandering Hoboken streets, then find comfortable homes for them in suburban New Jersey?
Who, for the love of St. Francis, would actually befriend a homeless, one-legged, spaghetti-eating duck, taking him home and nursing him back to health?
Answer: Joe Sacco.
To his Nebraska niece and nephews, he was simply known as “The General.” Towards the end, when dementia had reduced the once-bear of a man to a thin, frail shadow of his self, The General confided to his trusted lieutenants that he was ready to leave life’s battlefield. That he knew his mother and father were there waiting for him, that he couldn’t wait to see them, that they were ready to welcome him to an army of angels.
Joe, we all hope it’s been a blessed and joyous reunion. And if you happen to see Frank knocking around the neighborhood up there, you might tell your Hoboken compadre that you forgive him for all the lost sleep he once caused you.
And you might tell Ol’ Blue Eyes something else: That You Did It Your Way.
A Celebration of Joseph’s Life will include a visitation from 2pm to 6pm on Sunday December 3, 2017 at the William J. Leber Funeral Home, 15 Furnace Road (corner of Rt. 206), Chester, NJ (908) 879-3090. Friends and family are welcome at the funeral home from 9am to 10am prior to the 11:00am funeral mass on Monday December 4, 2017 at St John Neumann Church, 398 County Rd 513, Califon, NJ 07830. Final interment will be held privately by the family.
The family requests no flowers, in lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to a charity of your choice.