In Memoriam: Joseph M. Mattone, Sr., ’53C, ’55L, ’94HON

March 22, 2024

St. John’s University mourns the passing of Joseph M. Mattone, Sr. ’53C, ’55L, ’94HON, Chairman, Mattone Investors, LLC; distinguished alumnus; Trustee Emeritus; generous benefactor; philanthropist; and patriarch of the notable Mattone family.

“St. John’s University and metropolitan New York have lost a cherished son and torchbearer for the transformative power of the St. John’s experience,” stated Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President. “While his earthly light is extinguished, his impactful legacy burns bright and warms the beloved Mattone family and the extended family of St. John’s.”

If success and prosperity—regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position—personify the American dream, Mr. Mattone far exceeded his humble beginnings. But his colorful life and dynamic personality were more about envisioning the hidden potential in people and property. Throughout his 92 years, he helped develop people and places. He also helped neighbors and neighborhoods attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable and be recognized by others for the goodness he saw early in them.

Born in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, NY, in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, Mr. Mattone was the last of nine children. While his parents worked and his siblings took jobs at young ages to help with the family’s finances, Joe, as the youngest, was the beneficiary of their sacrifices.

He would recall getting his strong work ethic from his immigrant family experience and following the example set by his father and noted the deep sense of faith he gained from his mother. Mr. Mattone would hold to those values throughout his accomplished life.

He attended P.S. 17 in Brooklyn, Stuyvesant High School, and St. John’s Prep. At St. John’s and the School of Law, he graduated cum laude earning his bachelor’s and law degrees in just five years. As the only one in his family to graduate from college, he seized his opportunities.

“He has an incredible fondness for St. John’s University and St. John’s Law,” his son Michael X. Mattone ’91L told in 2014. “The Vincentian fathers allowed his family to pay tuition when they could, and he never forgot that.”

At St. John’s, he met his first love, Irene Ficarra; they married in July 1956 and had seven children. Many Mattone children and grandchildren would follow their parents’ path to St. John’s University and the School of Law. After Irene’s death from cancer, he married Mary Ann Pessolano on May 18, 1991, and Mary Ann and Joe were regulars at events and special occasions for decades.

“The impact and contributions of Joe Mattone and his extended and beloved family is immeasurable,” shared longtime friend Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M. ’70C. “In his life and work, Joe understood and lived the Vincentian mission because he was shaped by it. His local philanthropy is well-known, but he also supported Vincentian works and initiatives worldwide; the far reach, generosity, and legacy of Joe impacts countless people.”

After opening his first Brooklyn law office, in a home built by his maternal Italian-immigrant grandfather, Mr. Mattone served as legal counsel for various local businesses and soon developed a keen eye for real estate development opportunities. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he worked on developing commercial and industrial properties in Brooklyn and Queens, NY. As his success grew, he always remembered his humble roots, often investing and providing economic development opportunities in working-class neighborhoods, including downtown Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

“His connection to St. John’s was legendary,” said Associate Vice President of University Communications and Public Affairs, Brian Browne. “The late Governor Mario M. Cuomo, his childhood friend and St. John’s classmate, would frequently describe Joe ‘as the man who holds the deed on St. John’s.’ He was referring to the fact that, as a young developer, Joe purchased the 96 Schermerhorn Street property of the old St. John’s University campus in Brooklyn. He loved St. John’s—everything it stands for and how it changed his life.”

Today, Mattone Investors, LLC, is a Queens-based, family-owned-and-operated company specializing in acquiring, developing, and managing commercial, residential, and industrial real estate. The firm has acquired and developed a portfolio of more than four million square feet, mostly in the New York metropolitan area.

A political power broker, Mr. Mattone was active in philanthropic and political fundraising. If there was a cause or candidate that he believed in, he would lend financial support, build coalitions, and more importantly, provide his political acumen, business sensibility, and inherent instinct to champion the underdog and underserved. Mr. Mattone spent his life and career instilling values of charity, service to the less fortunate, and commitment to the community into the lives of his seven children and 27 grandchildren.

Mr. Mattone was the first member of The Founders Society at St. John’s University. The Founders Society consists of alumni and friends who have left an indelible mark on the St. John’s community, donating cumulative gifts of one million dollars or more to the University. 

He also served as a founding member of the Board of Governors and, later, as a Trustee and Trustee Emeritus. Continuing that proud tradition of supporting alma mater, he was a major contributor to the building of St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus; was the benefactor of the Mattone Family Atrium at St. John’s School of Law; and made a transformational gift to the law school to establish the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law

His external affiliations, memberships, honors, and awards are legion, and he always wore them proudly on his lapel. His College Point, NY, office and Douglaston, NY, home are decorated with plaques, medals, and commendations highlighting his countless honors and achievements.

Mr. Mattone has been honored many times by his alma mater, St. John’s University. He was awarded the President’s Medal in 1985, the highest award given to an alumnus, and the Medal of Honor in 1993. He was bestowed an honorary degree of Doctor of Law in 1994 and received the Spirit of Service Award in 2004. In 2017, Mr. Mattone was honored at the School of Law’s 90th Anniversary Gala for creating and funding the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law.

At the 2023 President’s Dinner, Michael X. Mattone ’91L, current member of the Board of Trustees, lauded his father by observing, “I don’t think its’s a coincidence that his Vincentian-influenced days at St. John’s Prep, St. John’s College, and the School of Law helped to shape him into who he became. Whatever service I have done, and will do, is a simple reflection of what I have experienced by being around this man.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations may be made to: St. John's University School of Law (Select the Joseph Mattone scholarship under designation.) or The Padre Pio Foundation in memory of Joseph Mattone Sr.


Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Immaculate Conception Center
7200 Douglaston Parkway
Douglaston, NY 11362

Funeral Mass

Wednesday, March 27, at 10 a.m.
St. Thomas More Church
St. John’s University–Queens Campus
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the:

Office of the President
Newman Hall, Third Floor