Joseph O. Giaimo '59CBA, '61L, '86HON, 84, died Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington, NY. Always the life of the party, this quintessential New Yorker loved making his famous pizza, always with anchovies, while sipping Dewar’s and soda and watching the Mets or, on the off season, St. John’s basketball. At his peaceful passing, he was comforted by the rock of his life, his Irish beauty, Kathleen.
His long and fabulous life started in 1934 when he was born to Sicilian immigrants, Antoinette and Octaviano Giaimo on the Upper East Side. When the family moved to Woodside, Queens, among his predominantly Irish buddies, Joe always took pride in his heritage even when he was eating pepper and egg sandwiches while other kids ate peanut butter and jelly. He would later recall some of his fondest memories included going to watch the New York Yankees with his dad and Uncle Bracco, who, he informed his grandchildren, was a bookie.
He attended the venerable Brooklyn Technical High School and always maintained that he was a technical mastermind despite his difficulties in Skype-ing his grandchildren. At 17, he joined the Navy where he lived the wild life of a young, handsome sailor. Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1955, he met a blue-eyed beauty, Kathleen Smith, who he swore upon seeing her face would become his wife. Despite a first date at White Castle Hamburgers, Kathleen agreed to marry Joe on June 11, 1960.
He attended St. John’s University for undergraduate and law school, graduating at the top of his class in 1961. He forever remained a devoted St. John’s basketball fan and spent many years screaming at referees from the stands of Madison Square Garden. In 1986, he was given an honorary doctorate by his alma mater and thereafter insisted that his children call him Doctor.
His esteemed legal career began as an Assistant Legislative Representative to New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner. He was a well-known presence in Albany serving at various times as the Assistant Counsel to a number of Democratic leaders in the New York State Assembly, including Vincent Nicolosi and Joseph Lentol both of whom remained Joe’s closest lifelong friends.
He ultimately started his own law practice in Kew Gardens and went on to represent such colorful characters as jazz musician Bobby Scott, cosmetics icon Aaron Morse, comedian Corbett Monica, and hip hop/film artist LL Cool J, all of whom appreciated his brilliant legal mind as well as his pasta, which he often started cooking at midnight.
His love of Italian cooking was so great that he became part owner of two Irish restaurants, Eamonn Doran’s on 33rd Street in Manhattan and on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. The 33rd Street restaurant eventually became his namesake, Joe O’s, where he would frequently amuse (or annoy) the line cooks by popping into the kitchen to cook up some pasta puttanesca for family and friends.
He loved traveling, especially to Italy, gardening in his backyard in Douglaston Manor, and playing golf at his home in Lake Worth, Florida. But, he took the greatest pleasure spending time with his five cherished grandchildren who he regaled with stories of times past while teaching them about the finer things in life like baccala and Frank Sinatra.
Loved ones that cleared the path for Joe in heaven include his beloved parents, sister and brother in law, Angelina and Domenick Lepore, and brother in law, James A. Smith. Loved ones that will miss Joe until they meet again to enjoy his pizza, wit, and affection are his wife Kathleen; his son James; his daughter and son in law Cynthia and Neill West, his daughter and son in law Jennifer and Mark Lyons, and his five grandchildren in whom Joe’s intellect, humor, and zest for life are rooted to carry on his inimitable legacy.
A memorial mass will be held on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Anastasia Church at 45-14 245th St. in Douglaston, New York.