My Husband Joe … His Eulogy
My mother always said “whoever marries me would have to be a saint” … and for once I listened and found a good man in my husband, Joe Luciani …
Unfortunately I wasted too much time forgetting to appreciate the goodness of Joe. For many of us, it’s too easy to get caught up in the annoyances of everyday life and forget about the importance of those who mean the most to you.
However, this past week allowed me to step back and take a good luck at Joe. The emotions and outpouring of support and love we felt this week reminded me of that good man.
Joe was the only child of Italian immigrants … conceived in Italy, born in his beloved Hammer and raised with enough love and adoration from his parents Giorgio and Giuditta to keep him buoyant …
My sister knew Joey first as they were partners in a wedding party when they were 4 and I was 1. I’m pretty sure he had already caught my eye. We later learned our own Nona had married his relative after the death of our Noni and that our families were from the same town in Italy. I know I know the thought did later cross my mind.
My reconnection with him came in 1976 as I sat waiting for an interview to teach @ Bishop Ryan HS. I watched a guy enter the admin area and start chatting up the secretaries … each one stopped what they were doing as though trying to soak up some of sun that had just entered the room. I realized right then I needed to get myself some of that shine.
Just before our wedding, though, I was frightened by the realization that I could never live up to his mother’s doting ways. How could I ever provide such love, adoration and domestic care for him? I could never iron his jeans or his underwear. He squelched my fears, and truth was revealed. I never had to, never did because he quickly showed he had learned well from his mother … so that I, and then our children became the spoiled ones. He treated me and our family as his mother treated him … with an outpouring of love, caring and attentiveness.
Joe gave of himself unconditionally for the benefit of others. He exercised his faith by being the person he was.
Joe taught me about love, unconditional love with no limits. It wasn’t until I met Joe that I experienced the power of that love. I remember after the birth of Dante telling him I couldn’t possibly love more, I didn’t have room for more babies in my heart as I was sure it would explode. He assured me there is always room for more love in our hearts. It merely expands and pulsates to the new rhythm. There is no maximum capacity.
Joe was meant to be an educator. Although encouraged early on by a NUN teaching at Bishop Ryan, to buy a lunch bucket for his probable life as a steelworker, Joe set out to prove her wrong. After graduating from the then Waterloo Lutheran University he launched into the world of education. After an illustrious start as a teacher at his former high school with Hamilton Catholic School Board, his relationship with me created a bit of a stir and he was left searching for another board where he could pursue his passion. He found it through Russ Jackson at the Peel Board. Russ saw something in Joe and believed he was worth taking a chance on. His first class to teach was welding, a subject he had to enroll in at night school to be able to teach each day. After close to 20 years with the Peel Board, Joe felt the call to return to his roots and landed at Halton Catholic School Board. Whether it was as a teacher, an administrator, consultant or fill-in chaplain he enthusiastically shared his passion and exuberance for education. He made it a noble vocation. Until his death he continued to mentor young teachers and prepare them for their chosen careers.
Joe’s love of football started early as a player and continued until ultimately breaking his neck in an organized game of touch football. Thankfully he had already developed an intense desire to coach … something he continued to do for 43 years. Scattered throughout our home remain numerous sheets of scribbles of x’s and o’s … Originally believing they were love notes for me, I quickly realized they were notes about plays for his teams. But his coaching style went far beyond scripted plays and proper technique. It included highly motivational pre-game talks and team bonding pasta dinners the night before every game. Coach Looch will live forever in thousands of young men’s hearts.
His appetite for all things football was satisfied watching his favourite teams STA, University of Notre Dame, Laurier Golden Hawks and of course the Hamilton Ti-Cats. However, his greatest joy came from watching his sons and nephews, and most recently our great nephew Anthony, play.
At any game you could always hear Joe yell “C’mon ref, you gotta make that call”, or his optimistic “It’s never over til it ‘s over.” He would actually re-watch big games repeatedly. Watching him in his coveted green chair, relive the emotion of every game, I would always comment, “Joe they’re never gonna win this game.”
Although Joe has earned a few awards and even won some big games, his greatest lifetime achievement was being the father of our three children … to say he had a strong and special bond with each of them pales to the reality of the relationships they treasured with each other.
His Dante, Vincie and ‘Peach’ Alena are the strong and independent people they are mostly due to their father’s powerful and positive influence. Osmosis. They grew up believing that the love they felt and were surrounded by was normal. Their friends were always welcomed, counselled and fed and each one left inspired and uplifted in some way. I believe it took until this past week for them to understand perhaps they got a little bit extra in the love department from their dad.
Joe loved … and he was never afraid to show it. Immediate family, extended family, close friends, fringe friends and people who had mildly interacted with him. Just the other day I had to console a young pharmacist at our drug store when she heard about Joe’s death.
No one who had an interaction with Joe left without his hug or being touched in some way. Whether it was his involvement with the various programs through the Knights of Columbus, mentoring new teachers or his coaching, Joe left a permanent mark on the hearts and minds of everyone he touched. And touch them he did. If he wasn’t stirring you up with one of his favourite quotes from the likes of Coach Lombardi, Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa, he was inspiring you with one of his favourite stories … even though we heard them repeatedly. And as he told them he was not afraid to show his emotions – many of you have watched his eyes well up and tears flow at the slightest hint of sentiment. Commercials included.
Not only did he nourish you with his warmth but he nourished your soul and fed your bellies.
He believed that although most people “eat to live,” he boasted “I live to eat.” Some people remember conversations with each other, some the outfit they wore … Joe remembered what you ate together.
Frequently as we enjoyed a breakfast together he would begin to plan for what he’d make for lunch. He was so passionate about what he learned from the Food Network it was not uncommon for Joe to have dinner prepared well before 4. We’d often joke “Next up, the pill cart. Then it’s off to bed” … all before 6pm.
Nothing made Joe happier than to prepare and provide a meal for others as he presented each with Mangia, La Tavola Invita … Eat, the table invites you. You always knew what you were in for because the sign on the wall warned you “Eat at Joe’s for fun and more where a serving for one feeds at least four.”
Joe loved food … everything about it. A favourite pastime was shopping for it even if it meant driving home to the hammer for the likes of Roma pizza, Nardini’s sausage or Salerno cheese. Often he purchased more than our cupboards or fridge could hold, in quantities and sizes only fit for industrial use. And if they were on sale, look out. His eyes were truly bigger than our bellies or bungalow could hold. His greatest challenge over the past few years was keeping up with the latest food allergies, diets and rigid healthy eating regimes of our kids … he was constantly harassed about what he bought, cooked for us and consumed often resorting to hiding his stash. Of course I knew better as I dutifully ate whatever was put in front of me. I knew the alternative was a bag of popcorn. It was no secret Joe did all of our cooking. Young Anthony picked up on it this week as he said to his mom, “but mommy what’s going to happen to Auntie Sooze? How will she eat?” My friends have assured me cooking lessons are coming.
Yes, Joe was truly our chef in the kitchen and in life … preparing for us, serving us and feeding us with both his food and his love. As we felt satiated with the nourishment, he too did with the offering.
He served us love on a platter, often not eating himself. I ate many a meal by myself as he looked on, hoping to please both me and my palette.
Like his ingredients and his recipes, Joe never hid his true feelings and emotions. Many of us witnessed his tears over the most minuscule events, scenes and situations.
His favourite story to stir such emotion was about the difference between Hell and Heaven … In Hell are rows of tables laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables are pale and emaciated, moaning with hunger. The predicament is every person has a spoon but because their arms are splinted with wooden slats, they cannot bend their elbows to feed themselves. However in Heaven with long tables laden with food the people sit contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal. Although they too have splinted arms they are able to stretch across the tables to feed the person across from them.
And perhaps that is our greatest lesson from Joe … may we live out his legacy of love and nourishment by reaching out and nourishing each other as we go through life .
Know you were loved by Joe. Being in this room means he has somehow touched you whether directly or through one of our family members. Treasure that and in some small way glean something from the man he was and the life he led as an example of truly living the good life. Do something with your serving for one … share it with others and feed at least four as Joe always did. It would be a shame to waste it.
This week many have said WWJD has new meaning. Well in asking what would Joe ‘Giuseppe’ do, the words on our kitchen wall say it best …
Mangia bene – (eat well) Ridi Spesso – (laugh often) Ama Molta – (love lots)
Thank you … and thank you for loving my husband.
Written and delivered with love by his honey … “Sooze”
Carole Bertuzzi Luciani