I could go on and on about my Dad, but here’s what a relative stranger had to say about him.
“Tribute to a Kind Man: Joe Castronovo”
By Norman B. Gildin, President
It began with a smile and it ended with a smile. Nearly six years ago, Barbara and I were hailed with a “Howdy neighbor” when we first moved onto the block and a kindly looking man came over to say hello and welcome us with a warm smile into the neighborhood. That smile is how I remember meeting Joe Castronovo; and it was the last thing I saw the day he passed. Little did we know then how this neighborly and kind man, and his dear wife Ginger, were going to make us feel like family.
Not having lived in a gated community and an HOA before, Joe helped us adjust to rules we never experienced. We first landed here as “snowbirds.” He reminded us when to open and close our shutters, when the refuse was picked up, when to keep on our coach lights for security and much more.When my son and daughter-in-law stayed with us, he would regularly check in with them to see how they were doing. He always cared. Joe cared.
Joe proved that the cliché “he’s willing to give you the shirt off his back” was a truism that went far deeper than mere words. Joe was always looking out for others. You would inevitably see him at one of our neighbors’ house checking their home while they were away. Or, if he didn’t see her for a while, he would go to an older neighbor to be sure she was safe and healthy and that she was well stocked for food. Or, he would often bring out a cold soda on a hot day for staff or gardeners when they came by, a refreshing “pick up” on a heated day. The ample supply of sodas stored in the garage fridge was for others, not himself. The list goes on.
When the Coronavirus hit, we found ourselves low on hand sanitizer wipes. Imagine our looks of joy when several weeks ago we heard a knock on the door. We opened it and there was a smiling Joe holding a container for us of Clorox Sani-wipes. It was carefully tied with a curled ribbon as he put it down on a table keeping his Social Distance. This was Joe just being thoughtful and being himself.
Joe steeped himself, along with Ginger, in the project of enhancing the landscape at The Club and addressing areas that needed improvement. He was deeply concerned about the broad leaf weeds that infested our landscape and wanted to be sure that the infestation was held in check with proper weed spraying. You would often see him clipping at plantings in our roundabout to make them blossom and grow better. He cared and commented about policies that would make life more pleasant at The Club. In his quiet and modest way, Joe’s wise counsel made good sense and was always welcome.
Anyone who found their way down Gold Leaf Drive during the Holidays would see the tasteful, humorous and fun decorations with which he beautified our neighborhood. The green Shamrocks, Easter Bunny, Halloween skeletons, Thanksgiving turkey, the bouncing lights for Christmas and New Year’s and so much more. These gave us all a lift when we needed it. Last Thanksgiving, he was late in putting up the décor and we kidded about issuing him a violation for not having his Holiday ornaments out on time and he gave us that special smile.
Joe’s experience also stemmed from a grounded background in serving our country.He was a military veteran and then also served as a Special Agent for U.S. Customs -- what today would be considered Homeland Security. He proudly served with distinction in both the U.S. Air Force and as a Special Agent. This background served him well since it framed a well-considered and disciplined approach to life. Despite being easy going, he was still well-ordered in how he viewed life.
He always shared his horticultural knowledge with anyone who sought his advice.I cannot tell you how many times Joe patiently explained to Barbara how to meticulously cut our plants to get them to bud properly.And sure enough, they did. His knowledge about plant diseases, and the variety of different flowers and plants at The Club and beyond was astonishing. Joe always shared his wisdom in ways that were for everyone’s benefit.
Sometimes a giant lives among us and we just don’t know it until the giant is gone. Despite his diminutive make-up, Joe was a giant here. May Ginger, his daughter Linda, son Paul and the entire Castronovo family lovingly remember Joe as the bright shining light he was in the constellation of stars that graced us with his warm and endearing presence.Joe – we will miss you! And we will miss your special smile!