On Dec. 2, 2013, I had the honor of delivering the eulogy for my friend, Joseph Cirruzzo, Sr. I know that there are many industry members who would have liked to be able to attend the funeral but with the timing of the event and the holiday weekend, it made it very difficult for some to travel. I know that you were there in spirit.
Here is what I said:
Character. The word has different meanings in different contexts. Joey was a man of character. He has a beautiful family that is a testament to that character. He had a successful business. He provided for many people throughout his lifetime. He was an animal lover. He loved Motown. He was a fighter for the limousine industry. He was there when he was needed.
His character shows by the many people who have been at his side throughout his illness. I feel like his extended family is my own as I have gotten to know them over the last few months that Joey has been ill.
Joey was a loyal friend to me and to many, many others. I would like to think that I am the only one who received regular calls with his famous, “What’s up baby?” but I know that is not the case. He made regular calls with many of you here today.
Joey ran what he called a transportation network long before many of the big companies used those words. Joey’s network was built on relationships — one relationship at a time. Customers and affiliates were his friends and his relationships he took with him until the end. He was an industry leader and a proud National Limousine Association board member. He took those responsibilities very seriously and gave above and beyond to the organization.
Joey had many friends. One friend, Jon Chester became very ill. At the end of Jon’s life, Joey stayed with Jon keeping him company. Joey would call me and tell me that Jon wanted to talk to me. Jon had throat cancer and was unable to speak. So I would speak and after quite a while of me rambling, Joey would get back on the phone. He would say, “You must have been very boring. You put Jon to sleep.”
Yes, Joey had character. The word character has another meaning. Joey truly was a character. Driving my 18-year-old daughter back to school yesterday, she reminded me that she learned the best curse words from Joey when he called me and started speaking before he realized he was speaking to my daughter. Boy, Joey could swear.
Many here have never had the opportunity to know the “character” Joey created in drag racing, Joe Black, the Green Hornet. My first trip to the drag strip was three years ago with Joey. He introduced me to all of his friends from the track as his personal writer. He flattered me with the title, but he meant every word. He often called and told me to write a story for him or about him, and I did. I had another taste of racing two summers ago when Joey was convinced that my husband and I should spend every weekend with him at drag races on the East Coast where he planned to travel and display his car.
Yes, I failed to mention that Joey had built a replica of the original “Green Hornet.” He relayed stories to me of times when he would load his kids in the RV and go from track to track, race to race. I wonder if Joe, Jr. and Julia remember those times. Those were some of the best memories of Joey.
Joey brought his car to Englishtown, N.J., for an alumni event. He was given rock star treatment. People lined up for his photo and autograph. I didn’t know he was famous. To me, he was just Joey — my friend. That day was over 100 degrees out. Joey suited up in full race fire suit. The car was pushed down the track to the starting position. Joey drove it out to the starting line where he was interviewed over the loud speaker. The flag flew and he raced down the track. He was in his glory. Unfortunately, he did not have another opportunity to do that. But the racing community would have welcomed it. He was their sweetheart. He got to live his early days over again at the end of his life and feel that excitement — a chance that many people do not have.
Joey knew he did not have long when he was diagnosed with his illness. He took it as his personal challenge to control his death just as he always had controlled his life. He orchestrated everything with dignity to spare Kathy, Julia, Joe Jr and the rest of the family the agony of making plans and decisions for him.
As was Joey’s character, he gave many a list of things he wanted done after his passing. He knew he would be going home soon and he looked forward to seeing his parents and brother again.
I will end this with the thought that I will miss my friend. I know that if there is transportation in Heaven, Joey will setting up a network. I am honored to call you my friend, Joey. May you rest in peace knowing that you will live in our hearts.
As with the rest of the service, Joey let it be known how he expected the services to go. Joey’s gravesite service was ended with a beautiful rendition of Frank Sinatra’s, “My Way.”
-- Linda Jagiela
LCT CIRRUZZO MEMORIAL ARTICLE HERE
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