Although Joe LaBarbera had no real home or family in the area, when he passed away last month he was given a full burial service and laid to rest in a grave in St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
LaBarbera, who earned the nickname “Joe the Pipe” because he was often seen around town smoking his favorite pipe, was well-known and well-liked in the Throggs Neck area and lived in a small, one-room apartment on East Tremont Avenue.
When he passed away on Saturday, May 29, likely from heart problems, he was 65-years-old. Soon after, on Tuesday, June 8, friends at the Victor Quirolo and Sons Funeral Home Inc. and Crown Memorial Company, Inc. provided him with the funeral service and the plot he was buried in. About 50 people attended the wake.
“How do you sum up somebody who’s a good, kind-hearted person, a nice person, who has no money and made no provisions to be buried? It’s either Potter’s Field or you do the right thing,” said Ray Carotenuto, an owner at Crown Royal Memorial, which provided the grave site.
Carotenuto had been a friend of LaBarbera’s since he was a child. He said the man, who became fast friends with his father, was always around the neighborhood as he grew up.
LaBarbera was the sixth to be born out of 12 children. Although he was a Bronx native, LaBarbera moved with his family to Tivoli, New York, in 1960 where he worked on farms with pigs, horses and chickens. After working at a horse farm for several years, LaBarbera returned to the Bronx about 25 years ago and lived here ever since.
While living in the Bronx, LaBarbera also met Gabriella Lequerique, and her father Richard, as he ran the Victor Quirolo and Sons Funeral Home on East Tremont Avenue. Lequerique said at the time LaBarbera was out of work and living in a garage when her father met him. Her father helped him find a room to stay at near the funeral home and gave him some steady work there.
“He was a skinny guy then and my dad took him under his wing. He taught him about being a pallbearer, and kind of adopted him,” Lequerique said. “He could have gone invisible, but everyone helped Joe. They gave him clothing, electronics and a TV. He had such a good heart. He would have given everything he had to other people if he had it.”
LaBarbera’s sister Virginia, who still lives in Tivoli, and three other sisters came down for the funeral. Although she said she hadn’t seen her brother for several years, they spoke on the phone regularly and the funeral provided the family members with some closure.
“Gabriella’s father was my brother’s best friend. They respected him and I think they did a great job. And Ray from Crown memorial did a beautiful job. There should be a special place for those people,” she said. “He had a nice little group of people there. They all knew “Joe the Pipe”. That’s all they knew him by. I think it provided some closure for the people down there, as well.”
Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or firstname.lastname@example.org