Joseph Pustizzi, 96, of Buena Borough passed away on Dec. 13, 2011, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Mr. Pustizzi, who was known to many as “Joe Senior,” was born on Dec. 3, 1915, at home in Forest Grove. He was one of 13 children born to Carmelo and Guiseppina Pustizzi, who had emigrated from Augusta, Sicily, at the turn of the century. He was married to the late Angelina DeFelice for more than 50 years and had six children; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
He started his career on the family farm, but his first love was fixing mechanical things. He was a self-taught mechanic, plumber, electrician, carpenter, mason, welder, mechanical engineer and businessman who worked as a mechanic for the legendary local businessmen of Harry Doerr, Gene Mori and George Pernazza.
“My father’s aptitude for mechanics was amazing,” said Ken Pustizzi, president and CEO of Trico Lift. “With only an eighth grade education, he could fix anything mechanically and build and repair anything.”
Mr. Pustizzi always had a desire to own his own business and, at 16 years old, he operated a gas station in Richland. In 1952, along with his wife, he founded Trico Equipment when he built and operated an Atlantic Gas Station and sold Case farm tractors. In 1957, he teamed up with a few local racing enthusiasts and built the “Case 300” Modified Stockcar that went on to win 13 NASCAR feature races that year. As the business evolved into selling Case Construction Equipment, he received many sales achievement awards, highlighted by being honored as the Top Performance Case Construction Equipment Dealer in North America in 1979.
“My Dad’s commitment to customer service was incredible,” said Ken Pustizzi. “I always remember growing up that no matter when someone needed something, whether it was after hours or on the weekend, he would always open up the shop and help the customer.
“He was always committed to his word. No matter what the deal, his word was his bond and always stronger than any written agreements.”
According to Joe Pustizzi Jr., his father retired in 1986 and remained active growing grapes, gardening, restoring old cars, and helping his family and the community. He was a lifelong resident of Buena Borough and served as a borough councilman. He has always been active in politics. He was a committeeman in the Atlantic County Democratic Party and received the Rubin Wishkin Memorial Award. He has been honored by the Buena outreach Advisory Board Atlantic County Office of the Aging and Disabled as “Man of the Year” for outstanding volunteer work. He served as a member of the Buena Borough Recreation Commission, finished at least four baseball fields at Bruno Melini Park and sponsored Little League teams for more than 15 years.
Mr. Pustizzi was honored in 2003 when the Joseph Pustizzi Pavilion was named in his honor for his tireless work at the park. He was one of the founders of the Forest Grove Athletic Association and had run many fundraisers for them dating back to the 1930s. He had been active in the Exchange Club for more than 40 years and was active bowling with his team until 16 years ago. He made wine from the grapes of his own vineyard and had won the “Il Migliore Dei Migliori” (Best of the Best) award several times from the Sicilian American Club. He assisted with various building projects at Our Lady of Victories (Queen of Angels Parish) by doing what he could when assistance was needed.
He is survived by daughters, Eileen and Jim McMahan, Marianne Pustizzi and Jimmy Michaux (significant other); his sons, Joe Pustizzi Jr. and Margo Cresci (significant other), Anthony and Pattie (Nealis) Pustizzi, Michael and Cyndi (Baer) Pustizzi and Ken and Stephanie (Bylone) Pustizzi; grandsons, Andrew and Stephanie Pustizzi, Christopher and Jaime Pustizzi, Jeff and Kelly Pustizzi, Greg Pustizzi, Kenny Pustizzi, Kevin Pustizzi and Jill Paterini (fiancee); granddaughters, Myriah (McMahan) and Brian Shewchuk, Allyson (McMahan) and Eric Boucher, Danielle (Pustizzi) and Michael Wynn, Angela Pustizzi, Sarah Pustizzi and Deseree Baer; great-grandchildren, Thomas “TJ” Pustizzi, Angelina Pustizzi, Gina Pustizzi, Rocco Pustizzi, Adelle Shewchuk and Charles Pustizzi; four sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and cousins. Mr. Pustizzi is predeceased by his wife, Angelina (DeFelice) Pustizzi; sisters, Concetta Scapellato, Domenica Vassallo, Maria Garofalo, Lena Buffa and Rose Pustizzi; and his brothers, Vincent, Anthony and Dominick, Sebastian, Salvatore, John and Albert Pustizzi.
Donations in Mr. Pustizzi’s memory can be made to: Forest Grove Athletic Association, 1101 Wheaton Ave., Millville, N.J. 08332; The Sicilian American Club of South Jersey, 638 E. Landis Ave., Vineland, N.J. 08360.
To send online condolences, please visit the funeral home Web site at www.ronefuneralhome.com.