Joseph Louis Milano, 99, of Wellsboro, passed away on March 25, 2023.
Born February 28, 1924 in Albany, N.Y., Joe was the fourth and youngest child of Antonio and Domenica Milano, recent immigrants from Roccasicura, Italy, who had traded poverty and burgeoning fascism in their homeland for the promise of American freedom and opportunity.
They believed strongly in the American Ideal, worked hard, and saved what they could, eventually laying aside enough money to purchase a slightly frayed apartment building in Rensselaer, N.Y. Situated near the abutments of the Hudson River's Dunn Memorial Bridge-the "big bridge" to Albany-it housed the growing Milano family and an ever-changing procession of mostly Italian tenants. During this time Joe and his older siblings went to school, took odd jobs and, encouraged by their parents, set about becoming American.
In his youth Joe enjoyed music and sports, especially basketball, bowling, and boxing (though when he demonstrated enough skill in the ring to raise himself up from the club level, he quit boxing, noting, "Those guys ring your bell from six inches away!") School dances, singing in the church choir, and walks in Washington Park were his favorite social activities. Indeed the choir was where he found his future wife, Lydia Rutolo, also an Italian immigrant.
At age 16 Joe contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Pawling Infirmary in Wynantskill, N.Y. (a short bus ride from the Rensselaer apartment house) for treatment and convalescence, which lasted 6 months and consisted essentially of fresh air, bedrest and periodic inducement of an artificial pneumothorax-injection of air through his chest wall to collapse the infected lung. He emerged from Pawling weak but generally well, finished high school and then attended Siena College (also a short bus ride from the Rensselaer apartment house) where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics. He then took a job as an accountant for Mobil Oil Company in Albany. In 1949 he married Lydia, who would remain his wife for 66 years until her death in 2015.
Joe and Lydia took residence in the Rensselaer apartment house, and five years later produced a son, David (married to Mary, nee Culin, now of Wellsboro, Pa). They left the apartment house in 1956, purchasing a small brick bungalow in Colonie, N.Y., next door to Lydia's sister and brother-in-law. Three years later Lydia gave birth to a daughter, MaryEllen (married to Ben Rasnick, now of Ventura, Ca.). His family was a source of endless enjoyment for Joe-he was never so delighted than in the company of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The designs of Mobil Oil unfortunately did not fit perfectly with Joe's strong family and geographical ties. He was transferred to Philadelphia in 1963, then to Dallas in 1977, where he worked until retiring in 1989. Joe and Lydia adapted to the changes, but in 2000 decided, with the urging of their children, to bring the family back into geographic proximity. They moved to Wellsboro, Pa, cheerfully close again to children and grandchildren. Outdoor Wellsboro was particularly attractive to Joe. He took up golf, reenergized his love of fly fishing, and made a point of bicycling country roads and trails whenever possible.
Joe suffered emotionally after the loss of Lydia, and in his last years struggled with the limits imposed by increasing physical failings. But when the end came, it was peaceful. He died surrounded by his teary-eyed family-a strong sign of a life well lived. Joe will be remembered for his generosity, honesty, and kindness, and for a rare and abiding innocence.
He is survived by a son and daughter and their spouses, two grandchildren and their spouses, and five great-grandchildren.
The family will receive friends June 20, 2023, 6pm to 7pm at Tussey Mosher Funeral Home 139 Main Street Wellsboro, Pa. All are also invited to attend a brief gravesite ceremony the following day, Wednesday, June 21, 10:30am, at St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery located on Catholic Cemetery Drive (off Pearl Street) in Wellsboro. To share a memory or condolence with Joe's family visit www.tusseymosher.com.
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