Farewell to Joe Virgona
by Ed Wendell
Oct 04, 2012 | 5250 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
His name was Joe Virgona and he loved his family, his country, his church and his community. Whenever you spoke with Joe, you were assured that you’d end the conversation in a better mood than you were IN when it started.

Joe was a good man and an important part of Woodhaven. He was a longtime board member of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, a former Man of the Year, a Woodhaven historian, a cheerful presence at our Woodhaven Town Hall meetings. In good weather and bad you could always count on Joe making time for our community.

He had a way of making people laugh and not in the way people laugh just to be polite. He said and did some things that left you laughing long after the conversation was over. There are some things he said to me that if you were to stop me on the street 30 years from now I’ll be able to recount them word for word, and laugh just as hard as the day he first said them.

His love and devotion to Woodhaven was matched by his love and devotion to our great nation. He was a veteran of World War II, and a proud member of the American Legion Post 118 on 89th Avenue. Memorial Day celebrations at the American Legion and on Forest Parkway will never be the same without him, but I suspect he’ll still manage to attend along with all of the veterans he’d paid honor to over the years.

Joe was a devoted member of St. Thomas the Apostle and a man of deep faith and conviction. Joe didn't just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He was a giving man, volunteering for the church in order to help others.

A few years ago, many of Joe’s interests came together in a perfect storm when a bronze plaque honoring 32 young Woodhaven residents who sacrificed their lives in World War 2 was stolen from the wall outside St. Thomas the Apostle. Joe was an avid photographer (at the end of the war he was assigned to take photographs of General Omar Bradley) and had taken many pictures of that plaque over the years.

In one photo, a bush had covered part of the plaque. In another, someone was standing in front of it. He didn't have one complete photo of the plaque, but by closely examining dozens of photos, Joe was finally able to piece together all of the names of the young men he wanted to make sure we never forgot. And so, on Veteran’s Day in November of 2009, a piece of Woodhaven’s history was restored as the new plaque was blessed by Father Frank Tumino.

Joe was proud of that plaque, but nothing gave him more pride and joy than his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his lovely wife Sue and all of Joe’s children and grandchildren. Our country, the community of Woodhaven and St. Thomas the Apostle all thank you for sharing Joe with us over the years.

If you knew Joe personally, if you were his friend, I’m sure you read this piece, nodding, smiling at memories of your own. And if you didn't have the pleasure of knowing Joe personally, I hope that these few paragraphs helped introduce him to you.

Keep your eyes out for the plaque that says “In Loving Memory of Our War Dead.” It is hanging this very day at the back of St. Thomas; you’ll see it as soon as you walk inside. And when you see it take a moment to thank these 32 young men from Woodhaven for their sacrifice. And then take an extra moment to remember Joe. Rest in peace, my friend.
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Ed Sweeney
October 04, 2012
He was all this and so much more. A real loss to all.