One of the oldest living Bronxites passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 30.
At 107 and a half years old, Joseph Binder, endearingly known as Joe or Uncle Joe, was more than just a living legend and his passing left a community and a family in mourning and in shock.
Joe Binder lived through both world wars, the Great Depression, the invention of the television, NASA’s mission to the moon, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the splitting of the Hydrogen atom, and the invention of the cellphone and the personal computer.
His family and friends span through generations and even seemed to span through time itself.
“I can’t believe he’s not with me physically,” said Linda Galasso, Joe’s 64-year-old niece. “He’ll always be with me in spirit but I did say I wish there was a cellphone in heaven.”
Galasso, who now lives in Livingston, NJ said her Uncle Joe had been in every single day of her life and she spoke to him multiple times a day along with visiting him almost three times a week.
“I’m sure I’ll get by without him, but it (life) was much better with him, I’ll tell you that much,” Galasso said. “He was a wonderful person, he was kind and generous and never said a bad word about anybody.”
JoAnne Angiulo, who has also known Joe her whole life out of friendship with Linda, said he was her mentor and guided her through many critical points in her life.
“I always called him Uncle Joe and I thought he really was my uncle,” said Angiulo, 68, who also used to visit him while he was at Providence Rest Nursing Home. “He was very supportive and loving of me and we had a very close relationship.
Through such a long life, he was able to pass on much more than stories.
In fact, everyone he had ever met was able to gain more knowledge about life and how to truly appreciate it, according to his friends and family.
“Every time I was around him he was upbeat, happy, optimistic, and obviously as someone his age would face, he dealt with ups and downs with his health, nothing too severe,” Richard Galasso, Binder’s 33-year-old grand nephew, recalled. “But no matter what he was going through, he was so happy that he was here on this Earth enjoying his time and I found that very emulating.”
“He was so creative, he kept his mind occupied,” said 71-year-old Vinny Tolentino, one of Joe’s friends, reflecting on the centenarian’s long life. “I mean till the end he wanted to sing and dance.”
Many friends, family and community members often spoke of how young Joe looked and sounded for his age, especially since he was still a regular entertainer at Pasquale’s Rigoletto Restaurant on Arthur Avenue.
The Saturday before his passing, family and friends said Binder did his usual comedy act and performed a few songs at Rigoletto’s.
“I always had to try to be a little bit better but it never worked. He was always the best,” said 51-year-old Gene DiNapoli, who had been entertaining with Joe for more than 20 years. “Everything he did from the way he dressed, the way he looked the way he smiled. He was a class act. He always made you feel better. It’s a sad day for the Bronx, a very sad day for entertainers. It’ll never be the same.”