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Joseph Anthony Vanni was born “second month, fourteenth day, 1948”, as he would say it. He was born in Brooklyn but reared in the Bronx: in New York City. When Joe was born, his father, Joseph, was 41 and his mother, Concetta Sacrestano, was 34. Both parents were born in Italy. Their marriage, in 1942, was his father’s second. His first wife, Elvira Policella, died in 1938 in an automobile accident near their home in Beacon, New York. Joe’s father had come to the United States in 1924. The 1930 US census lists his occupation as “laborer-bricklayer.” He worked on the Empire State Building. A September 1930 photograph from Joe’s photo album shows the New York landmark’s brickwork about 80% completed at that time.
Joe was the youngest of five Vanni children; Camille “Dolly”, Albert, Richard, Anne-Marie Vanni all deceased. He received his Catholic education by the sisters of Saint John the Baptist at Saint Dominic Elementary School, in the mostly Italian parish of Saint Dominic, Bronx, NY. The parish has since closed. In 1957, Joe’s father died of heart attack while on the job. He was just 51 years old. Joe was already then close to big sister, “Dolly”, 19 years Joe’s senior, and her husband Alphonso “Red” Gargano, and their daughter Connie Ann Gargano – Joe’s close-in-age but, in fact, niece. The three Gargano’s lived upstairs in the two-family house that they all shared on Amethyst Street.
Joe graduated Christopher Columbus High School class of ‘66. The family eventually moved to Massachusetts for a short while, and then to Miami Beach, Florida. In Florida, Joe held various jobs first with his brother Richard’s residential air conditioning service and then as a termite control technician. Joe became a long time prep cook for the Clock Diner and lastly with the Macaroni Grill, both of Miami Beach. For 17 years, as he would tell it, he took care of “mommy”, his mother, Connie. Sometime after Connie died in 2000, Joe began to dream about leaving Florida for the middle of the country. He hoped to afford and own a home in more peaceful surroundings. In September, 2005, Joe loaded up his Saturn S-Series sedan with his two cats, Kitty and Kisses, and relocated to Norman, Oklahoma. He quickly found work at the eastside Walmart first in housewares and most recently as Maintenance Associate. His smile, his sense of humor, and his humility won him many friends among both the associates and the Walmart shoppers.
He was interested in cars, the latest consumer electronics, and guitar all of his life. He loved nature, wildlife and animals. He had a soft spot for strays. He admired the work of the WildCareOkalhoma. He listened to classical station KUCO. He believed in dealer service. He loved his mother’s Italian cooking; lasagna, calzone, cannoli and Angelina Jolie. He was “a cat guy,” in love with his tuxedo cat, Kisses. A stray that he adopted and nursed with a bottle. “She was the most affectionate life I ever have known,” he would post on his Facebook, May, 2014. His calico companion named “Kitty” shared his studio apartment until old age took her away from him.
Joe died at home September 7, 2018 of cancer. He is survived only by his nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to WildCareOklahoma.
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