On Tuesday, January 5, 2021, long time Ossining, New York resident, Joseph “Joe” Benke passed away from double pneumonia and complications from Covid-19. Joe became a statistic that day, but he was so much more than that. His family wants him to be remembered for the way he lived his life, not for the way he passed.
Joe Benke was born on September 9, 1943 at the old Ossining Hospital on Spring Street. Joe and his older brother John J. Benke (Ossining, NY) were raised by their single mom , Florence Riccio, their grandparents Guiseppe and Luigina , and their Aunt Elizabeth (Lil) Girvalo . The family was rooted in “The Hollow”, where Joe and John’s grandparents owned a grocery store. From an early age, both boys learned about responsibility, developed a strong work ethic, and understood the importance of family. Often, Joe reminisced about working in the store and helping to make the lemon italian ice from the recipe his grandmother had created.
Joe forged a lifetime of friendships in “The Hollow”. He remained friends with these boys, who became future leaders and respected businessmen in their community. Hours and hours of stories from childhood never got old, and Yoyo as he was known to these men, often had opportunities to socialize with them all the time. It was great to see them interact with each other with such an ease and comfort that made everyone smile in their presence..The love that these men have for one another is a true testament of what friendship, and brotherhood should be. They have been the example for their own children, and for others alike.
Joe eventually moved out of “The Hollow”, when the family moved to Forrest Avenue when their grandfather built a multifamily home. Joe remained at this residence until he married the love of his life , Nancy DiSisto (daughter of Augie and Agnes DiSisto) in 1967. Joe knew Nancy his entire life: she was the girl who lived up on the hill. Their families were friends, and it was destined for these two to become a couple. It is true that Nancy did tell him no at first, but Joe’s persistence wore her down , and a Maryknoll picnic was their first date. After that, the two were inseparable. Joe’s dedication to his wife and his marriage was a beautiful thing to witness. Joe never left the house without kissing Nan goodbye. He would often grab her, and dance her around the house cooing Johnny Mathis and Lou Rawls songs into her ear. Nan and Joe were together 55 years, married just shy of 53 years at the time of his passing.
Joe did not think he could be any happier, but on November 25, 1968, his one and only child, a daughter was born. Stacey was born and Joe and Nan’s entire existence revolved around raising their daughter. Joe was an amazing father, and the two were peas in a pod. Everyone said she looked like Nancy, but she is all her father. Joe spoiled his girls every chance he could, and the love flowed freely in their home. Anything that Stacey wanted to learn or try, Joe was there on the sidelines coaching AYSO soccer, softball, or pacing the pool deck at Torview Swim and Tennis. Joe loved athletics and passed that love on to his daughter. Sunday afternoons were spent together watching hours upon hours of Giant games, or golf. He was very patient teaching Stacey the rules of the game. He also taught his daughter how to live life to the fullest. Joe loved to socialize, dance, sing, spend time with friends and family, but most importantly to enjoy life.. He taught his daughter humility, mistakes he made, and how important it was to admit when you make a mistake. His integrity was everything to him, and that is the legacy he shared with her. Joe had a dream once to become a teacher, but there was not the money for him to go to college. He was not going to let the limitations once put on him be put on his daughter. Joe took a job at Pace University so Stacey could go to school for free. The President of the College allowed Joe on stage the day Stacey graduated with her Bachelor’s degree, and he was able to present his daughter with her diploma. A full circle moment for Joe because Stacey had fulfilled one of his dreams.
In the last five years Joe took on a new role that eluded him for a long time, one of a grandpa. Stacey met John Golemis (Stony Point, NY) and his children Hayden and Evan and it was a perfect fit. Joe and Nancy welcomed all of them with open arms and Joe proudly introduced them to everyone. The children called him “Big Joe”, but referred to him as their grandpa when explaining to others who this special man was to them.. He spent hours upon hours with Evan drawing trains, and creating block masterpieces. Joe was such a good listener , even though he did wear two hearing aids, and he hung on each one of Hayden and Evan’s words. It was beautiful to witness how fast the bond grew between the children and Big Joe. Family vacations to the beach, holidays, celebrating Joe’s 75th birthday at The Music Man in New Jersey, and their dad and Stacey’s wedding will always be remembered as some of the highlights spent with their Big Joe.
Joe worked from the time he was a little boy, and often in Ossining. Later in life he worked at Fordham Prep, Pace University, and he retired from Hastings on the Hudson Union Free School District as their Chief Engineer. By far though, Joe’s favorite job that he held for the last four years was being a crossing guard for the New Castle Police Department. Joe was happy to go to work each and every day. He loved stopping by Village Hall to say hello to the police officers and staff, but the real joy was seeing the children of the Grafflin School each and every day. The Hillholme Neighborhood became Joe’s second home, and the outpouring of love from that community has been tremendous. Nancy and Stacey always knew that Joe was special, but in their wildest of dreams could not have imagined how much he was loved and respected by these families.
Joe lived life to the fullest for 77 years. He was a humble man and his faith was central to his life. Joe was born and raised Catholic and was a member of both St. Ann and St.Augustine Churches both in Ossining, NY. He believed in God Almighty and that Jesus Christ was his Savior. Joe enjoyed worshipping , especially singing in church and serving others. Joe was gifted by God with a light that was infectious that drew people to him. He had the uncanny knack of making everyone feel comfortable in his presence. He believed in a life of service and giving back to the community. Joe served on the St.Ann’s School Board, and St. Ann’s Parish Council, and Cardinal’s Campaign Committees. He volunteered as a Bingo caller at St.Ann’s long after Stacey graduated from there. Joe was a member of the Elks Club for more than 37 years and served as a trustee. He volunteered multiple times at the Veterans Hospital in Montrose and loved sharing the holiday spirit along with his fellow Elk brethren. Joe also was an active member of the Columbus Lodge. He was also a member of the Ossining Sports Supporters and The Westchester Bridge Sporting Club.
Joe always had an encouraging word for others, and a smile on his face. Many people feel that they are better people for knowing Joe Benke. Joe’s family would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support during this time. Please help to keep Joe’s light shining,
A Funeral Mass will be held on Friday March 12th at 11:30 AM at St. Augustine Church in Ossining, NY. Interment, to follow at St. Augustine Cemetery, Ossining, NY.
In lieu of flowers donations in Joe's name to St. Judes Childrens Research Hospital would be appreciated.
LEACH & THOMAS FUNERAL HOME
45 S. Highland Ave
Ossining, New York 10562
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joseph Benke, please visit our floral store.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis TN 38105