October 3, 1933 - January 13, 2021
Joseph T. Ruggiero passed away on Wednesday January 13, 2021. Having spent 15 months in a world without his beloved wife Carol, Joe’s heart finally said, “enough is enough.” It is assumed he greeted Saint Peter with some good-natured ball-busting and a firm handshake before being enthusiastically welcomed into heaven and reunited with his sweetheart for all of eternity. Born October 3, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, Joe was the second youngest of 12 children. He was devoted to his large family and exceedingly proud of his Italian heritage. He played football for Central High where #19 was nothing short of a legend. It was in the halls of Central High that he met Carol, his future wife and forever sweetheart. They were married for 65 years until Carol’s death in late 2019. Soon after their wedding, Joe was drafted into the army and stationed in Germany where he and Carol lived until 1958 before returning to New Jersey and starting a family. After a few years in North Arlington, the family settled in Old Bridge where they lived until Joe’s retirement. Joe worked for the New Jersey Turnpike for over 35 years. If you drove between exit 7 and exit 11 during that time, you probably saw his maintenance truck decked out with a large, hand painted “Support or troops” sign and a three-foot-high NY Giants helmet. (“You can be anything you want to be in this life,” Joe once told his youngest daughter. “Just stay Catholic and a Giants fan.”) In the mid 1970’s Joe switched to the night shift during summers and owned and operated a hotdog truck during the day. Carol did all of the cooking and Joe did all of the serving, joking and chatting. Before the days of hipster food trucks, “Joe’s Hotdogs” at a truck turnoff in Perth Amboy was a hidden treasure, beloved by locals and long-haul drivers alike. The day he closed up shop burly truckers wept real tears. A fitness enthusiast, Joe excelled at everything that required physical prowess, from cycling, running, and weightlifting to basically any and all sports (with the exception of golf which he had zero patience for.) He was well known at the local high school in Old Bridge for performing Rocky Balboa-esque training montages on a weekly basis. Running up and down the bleachers with makeshift weights slung over his shoulders while kids 40 years younger than him panted during football warm-ups. It was during that time that his muscley physique and patriotism earned him the nickname “Captain America.” After Joe retired from the turnpike, he and Carol moved to the Poconos, a spot they fell in love with during their honeymoon. It was in the Poconos that Joe and Carol enjoyed a wonderful new chapter. They flourished at what they referred to as “country life.” They were both very active in their church, Saint Bernadette’s in Canadensis, and Joe became a member of the Knights of Columbus. Joe loved their Pocono home and spend a lot of time turning into the woodland oasis he dreamed of as a child in Newark. He built decks and porches, river stone walls (complete with a waterfall and pond) and his trademark river stone wishing well. While he loved a house project, his favorite past time was taking daytrips with Carol and their church friends. The more historic the better. He loved visiting new churches, sight-seeing and going to any sort of festival. If they had live music and food, Joe wanted to be there. Later in life, Joe and Carol returned to New Jersey to be closer to family. Joe’s greatest joy in recent years came from spending time with his grandson Rex and his great granddaughter Fiona. Joe was a patriot, a die-heard Giants fan, and a devout Catholic. He could build anything, fix anything and was always willing to help out if someone needed a hand. While he had a long list of attributes, he was best known and universally loved for his humor and gregariousness. His world was a collection of friends: high school friends, beach friends, church friends, “friends from the neighborhood,” football buddies, army buddies, and gym pals. The list goes on and on. Everybody loved him. If you went with Joe into a store or restaurant, he’d been to more than twice, you’d find that everyone working there would know him by name and he would know everyone. He was the mayor of every establishment he frequented, from his local diner to convenience stores on the tri-state borders where he’d buy his lotto tickets. He always had a joke at the ready and remembered enough details about everyone’s lives to ask after a sick relative or new grandchild. Above all else, Joe was a truly wonderful father and having him as dad was as close to having a superhero for a dad as a kid could get. He was affectionate, warmhearted, protective and an ever-present source of strength and love. He was adored by his three daughters and in turn, loved them so fiercely each is absolutely, fall-on-their-sword-certain they were his favorite. Joe Ruggiero was simply a good man. A working-class hero. Loving, loyal, outgoing, passionate, tough, kind and funny as hell. He was a devoted husband, a genuinely fantastic father and grandfather, and a beloved brother, uncle and friend. His one flaw was his affection for cheap red wine that he would purchase by the gallon and keep in the refrigerator. Other than that, he was pretty much perfect. He will be profoundly missed by so many and life will never be the same. Joseph is survived by his daughters Deborah Ruggiero of Rehoboth Beach, DE, Denise Ruggiero of Whiting, NJ, Diane Ruggiero-Wright of Los Angeles, CA, his son-in-law Timothy Wright and his sister Helen Ruggiero Luongo of Flemington, NJ. He leaves behind three grandchildren: Alexis Cook-Lisa, Dillon Cook and Rex Wright, as well as seven great grandchildren: Isabella, Frankie, Dominick, Victoria, Santino, Aleah and baby Fiona, the newest apple of his eye. Due to the pandemic, funeral services will not be held at this time for Joseph. The family will have a proper funeral and memorial mass once it’s safer to gather. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Joe’s favorite charity, Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. They can be found at https://www.stjude.org.
Joseph T. Ruggiero passed away on Wednesday January 13, 2021. Having spent 15 months in a world without his beloved wife Carol, Joe’s heart finally said, “enough is enough.” It is assumed he greeted Saint Peter with some good-natured... View Obituary & Service Information
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