He was strong-minded and involved, a part of so much that defined Verona for so many decades that more than a few people thought he would be here forever.
Joseph A. Vitale, Jr.–Joe to generations of Veronans–died on Thursday, August 5, at age 85. His funeral is this morning at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell 10 a.m. He will be missed, by his family to be sure, but also by all the people in town who had come to count on his involvement. “Joe Vitale was the embodiment of the Verona spirit,” said Mayor Teena Schwarz. “Involved, opinionated, dedicated to our town and a gentleman to the core. I will miss him dearly.”
Vitale lived in Verona his whole life. Richard Citrano, who was two classes behind Vitale at Verona High School, remembers that Vitale started in sports in grammar school and played on one of VHS’ first football teams. “Even after he graduated, he remained a big fan of Verona sports,” Citrano noted. Vitale’s involvement in sports led him to be one of the founders of the Fifth Downers boosters group and to serve on the committee that guided the creation of the Verona Pool.
“He loved Verona” says Steve Janett, chief operating officer of Prudential New Jersey Properties. “He was one of the first to get up any any meeting because he was really concerned about keeping the town a great place to live. He was pretty outspoken, but his heart was in the right place. I admired him a lot and he always wanted to right for the future of Verona.”
As befitted someone with two masters degrees who worked as an educator for three decades, Vitale was a regular fixture at Verona Board of Education meetings. “Regardless of the issue issue Joe brought before the BOE,” says board member Glenn Elliott, “it always brought a smile to my face to see him at the podium. Joe’s sense of humor and words of wisdom will be deeply missed.” Adds John Quattrocchi, another long-serving board member, “When Joe was in the room, you had to be on your toes. That made people remain focused and sharp. He will be missed.”
Former Town Councilman Santi Condorelli met Vitale through the sometimes fractious world of Verona politics. “He was an individual who was not afraid to speak his mind,” Condorelli says, “and worked to make this town a better place to live.”