Joe Massaro’s funeral was Monday morning. The mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral gave anyone attending a good idea of what was important to Joe during his life. His highest priority was family.
A beautiful funeral mass isn’t exactly the setting for story telling, however, and that’s a bit of a shame when it comes to Joe Massaro. His life and career are a treasure trove of stories. I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Joe just before the onset of his Alzheimer’s disease. His sons had asked me to help document his life story for Joe’s many grandchildren. Over the course of a year, I heard hundreds of stories, many of which have been told repeatedly through the years by Joe or his sons. The one story that hasn’t been told nearly enough was how Joe’s business nearly failed and recovered. Those four or five years scarred Joe and he was understandably happy to have put the period in the past, but the experience also galvanized his already close family.
Joe was remarkably candid in talking about the bad decisions and bad luck that led to his company’s troubles. The battle to save the business brought two of his sons into the business. Joe talked with great respect about how hard those two, Joe III and Steve, fought to help right the ship. His other son, David, later joined the business as well.
When Joe told me the story of that period, it was also pretty clear that he leaned even more heavily on his wife Carol to endure the battle. He spoke of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning – comparing it to going to war every day – and said it was Carol and their daughter Linda who pushed him each day. He said Carol reminded him that no one was going to fix the problems for him.
Joe gets credit for his determination in turning his company around. He didn’t take such credit in retelling the story of that time in his life. He sincerely believed that it was his family that made the difference and it’s probably true that without that combined effort Massaro Corp. would not have survived.
It made Joe unhappy that his mistakes changed the plans his children had made but the crisis galvanized the family in a way that none of his successes had. Creating a business that would be a family legacy was a driving motivation for Joe Massaro. He may have been uncomfortable with how that legacy was created but there is little doubt that it’s a legacy that has endured.