Joseph Julian Trionfero, 89, of West Fifth Street Road, Oswego, passed away at St. Luke’s Health Services on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, of complications from COVID-19, the scourge of our times.
He was a congregant of St. Joseph’s Church in Oswego. In the loss of our patriarch, the Trionfero family joins with 374,000 American families who have lost loved ones to this terrible, terrible illness.
“Julio” was the devoted husband of the late Inez Trionfero. They met at age 11 as she visited her aunt in the neighborhood of his homestead on Herrick Street in Oswego. They were married for nearly 40 years prior to her passing in 1999. Her protracted illnesses, and their shared hardships, strengthened his faith in God, and served as a living tutorial on maintaining marital devotion in the midst of extreme challenges.
Tiny and Julio never went steady, and they never broke up, and always parted with “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart.” They are finally together again.
Joe was the youngest and last surviving child of Marcello and Angelina Morabito Trionfera, who were both Italian immigrants, a “Romano and a Siciliano.” Theirs was a truly blended family, as his parents had each lost their first spouses in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.
Joe was born Feb. 25, 1931, and Marcello and Angelina did their best to provide for Joe and his siblings during the latter years of the Great Depression. Joe was fond of saying they were sustained by his mother’s canned goods “from the cellar” and dandelions, (“wilted!”) that his mother harvested from the neighborhood, as well as by pigeon meat from the birds his father would capture under the Bridge Street bridge and kept in the cellar as well. “Cookadichoo, cookidichoo” was the phase his father used to lure the pigeons into the traps.
As a boy Joe was lovingly nurtured by his sisters Rose Trionfero Ruggio and Frances Trionfero DiGaetano, as well as his brother Louis Trionfera, sisters Anna Trionfera McLaughlin, Josephine Yacano Lazzaro, and Mary Yacano Vaccaro. Joe was especially doted upon by his big brother George B. Yacano of Norwich, with whom he lived for a time during World War II. It was George that made Joe his first toys, and “Norwich,” along with “Herrick Street” and “Under the Grapevine” were each phases Julio considered synonymous with heaven itself.
As dementia threatened to rob his most precious of memories, he responded by decorating his home in wallpapered pictures of all of his loved ones, to keep their memories alive, with “Norwich” written throughout.
Joe was a student of nature, enjoying the serenity of his beloved nature trail, the movement of leaves in the summer wind, and the calm expanse of the view of Lake Ontario sitting on a bench with his sons. He welcomed the summer’s heat happily, saying that he had gotten used to it as a child, having started work at the age of 7 on Ferlito’s Muck Farm, earning end of the season wages as a sharecropper. His work ethic was largely shaped by Mr. Mike Ferlito, who lent Joe the money for the suit he wore when he married Inez at age 19, and Joe kept Mr. Ferlito in his nightly prayers throughout his life.
He also kept in his prayers the Fragale and Scaccia boys, especially Tony, Midge, and Joe — goombadi that protected Joe in his youth and taught him the most important life lessons — about girls and cars. Joe was proud of earning “man’s wages … 65 cents an hour” working on the New York Central Railroad at age 16. He later supported his family as a warehouseman at Papertronics. While always had side jobs, he never was too tired after a day’s work for a game of catch with his children. In his ethic of “envy the working man” he adjusted to various factory closings, working food service at the college, working the boats at the port, donning costumes as a security guard at the Renaissance Fair, sweeping floors at McDonald’s, as well as other endeavors.
Mr. George Caruso, who was especially gracious in employing Joe at the Wine Creek Inn and the Oswego Speedway, was also a soul that Joe kept in his nightly prayers. Joe had the honor of working side by side with his son Joe Jr. in his son’s entertainment businesses, JTS Music and Show of Love. Joe Sr. relished his big blue cargo van full of equipment and being the “World’s Oldest Roadie.” It was his love for music that shaped his son’s love of music and its power to make people smile. The big blue cargo van was equipped with lawn chairs and bungee cord for emergencies, such as transporting his grandchildren to fetch cannoli at the store for dessert at a moment’s notice.
Joe was a proud member of the 1946-47 Nighthawk football team, an undefeated intramural squad that challenged the Oswego High School varsity squad that was led by the late Mr. Leo Maniccia, for whom Joe offered special prayers. Up through last summer, Joe stayed athletic and enjoyed daily walks with his sons as well as one-on-one basket shots with his great-grandson.
As Joe also prayed nightly for the souls of his siblings and their spouses, he also prayed nightly for all souls in purgatory, believed in the redemptive quality of prayer, and kept his faith in God. He studied and lived, word for word, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Nicene Creed. His favorite saying was “Love Lives in a Smile.” Please remember to smile, especially under your mask, as kindness is as contagious as any malady. Joe was fond of saying, “Pour it on me, God, I can handle it.” Let our faith see us through all present and future challenges.
Joe will be forever loved by his children, Marshall (Jeanne Grasso) Trionfero, Joseph A. (Denise Vona) Trionfero, Kenneth (Deborah Lyon) Trionfero, Rosanne (Fred) Maxon and their families.
He was predeceased by his wife, Inez, and his mother-in-law, Agnes Gorton.
He will be loved and missed by his two sisters-in-law, Beverly Riley and Diana Kelly. He also leaves behind 12 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, as well as devoted nieces and nephews.
His grandchildren are left with lasting memories of being taught how to use a push mower, riding mower, and how to use a chainsaw, how to sharpen a chainsaw, how to test electrical outlets, use an engraver, and most importantly, how to secure themselves to a lawn chair with bungee cords while riding in the van, according to his grandson James Trionfero, “…not sure on the age, let’s call it by 10.”
Several of his grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, had the honor and privilege of working shoulder to shoulder with their grandfather, either at the Speedway, Ren Faire, or with Show of Love. For the most part they were even able to keep up with him. It was for his grandchildren that Joe had started his weekly “Dinner at Grandpa’s” gatherings in 1995 to ensure “keeping the family together.” Begun as picnics under the cloak of a protective blue tarp, these gatherings have continued but are now paused only by the recent pandemic. His heritage will continue to be expressed by familial love, consideration, and compassion, which his family asks be extended to the St. Luke’s family of caring. His family asks they be remembered in your prayers in perpetuity for providing their best love and care for Joe since August 2020. He was quick to say everything there was “Perfect! Top shelf!”
There will be no calling hours. Funeral services were Friday at CTGS at St. Joseph’s Church, and you may watch the virtual services through Christ the Good Shepherd’s Facebook site. Anyone planning to attend the funeral Mass must register at CTGS 315-343-2333, and facemasks are required. The arrangements are in the care of the Sugar & Scanlon Funeral Home, 147 W. Fourth St., Oswego.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be considered for Project Lifesaver in Oswego County, Oswego 911 Project Office, 39 Churchill Road, Oswego, NY 13126; Meals on Wheels, OCO Nutrition Services, 239 Oneida St., Fulton, NY 13069; Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter, 441 W. Kirkpatrick St., Syracuse NY 13204; or The St. Luke-John Foster Burden Fund, 299 East River Road, Oswego, NY 13126.
A summer memorial picnic will be held as soon as circumstances allow, under Grandpa Trionfero’s Picnic Pavilion.