Special to the Record
David Wood delivered a heartful tribute to Joseph Wozniak, his lifelong friend and former neighbor, during a funeral Mass Monday at the Saint Rose Church.
Joseph, the youngest of five children of John and Kathleen Wozniak, died on July 28 at the age of 58.
Many of Joe’s friends remember how popular he was and how respectful he was to others as an outstanding young athlete at Camp Robie at the Chelsea YMCA. Everyone, campers and counselors, gravitated toward the forever-smiling, blond-haired kid because of his upbeat personality, his athletic excellence, and overall, authentic kindness.
Joseph loved his parents, his siblings, and friends. Joseph, Kim, June, and John “Pete” Wozniak, like other kids growing up in Chelsea in the 1970s, no doubt idolized their older brother, Mike – “Big Mike” – who became one of Chelsea High School’s greatest all-time basketball players.
Joseph was a high school sports standout as well, competing and excelling for the Dom Savio football and basketball teams when the Spartans were a powerhouse in the Catholic Central League and the MIAA playoffs. Two of Joseph’s Savio football teams played in the Super Bowl in back-to-back years.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson lived on Chester Avenue, his home abutting the home of the Wozniak family, who lived on Watts Street.
“The Wozniaks were a great Chelsea family,” said Robinson. “They were good neighbors and great friends. Everybody admired them.”
The Text of David Wood’s Eulogy follows:
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is David Wood. Joe and I were next door neighbors on Watts Street in Chelsea for many years.
Growing up in the old neighborhood, we spent a lot of time playing pick-up games around the Central Avenue projects and at Highland Park.
Joe enjoyed fishing down the Chelsea Creek, working out at the YMHA and the YMCA, riding his bike around town and to Revere Beach, and taking the ‘T’ into downtown Boston to see his brother Pete working at Haymarket or his brother Mike working at the Marriott Hotel on Long Wharf.
I remember Joe being a very kind and thoughtful guy who was always willing to help out a friend or stranger. Joe would give you the shirt off his back or his last dollar in his pocket if you needed it.
Joe also had a very strong faith in God, and he enjoyed attending Mass here at Saint Rose and other area churches. I’d say Joe got that from his mom, Mrs. Kay Wozniak, who I remember as being very religious and one of the kindest, most considerate parents in the neighborhood.
Joe attended grades 1 through 8 at Saint Rose School and went onto Dom Savio High School in East Boston. Joe was always a good student and loved playing football and basketball for the Spartans. I had the opportunity of playing football with Joe, and he loved working out to stay in shape preparing for the upcoming season. I always remember Joe as a big, hard-hitting kid who was loyal to all his teammates, and he gave it his all on and off the field.
Joe was always a stand-up guy and one night while walking past the Chelsea YMCA, he heard someone calling out for help. Joe jumped into action and came to the aid of an elderly man who was being robbed at knifepoint. Joe held the perpetrator on the ground until the police arrived at the scene. Joe was very proud of the commendation he received from then-Mayor Tom Nolan on behalf of the City of Chelsea.
That’s who Joe was – a good guy who would never look the other way or cross the street but someone who did the right thing no matter what.
Anybody who knows Joe well knows he always had a habit of showing up, out of the blue, without any warning. I remember one time after I had moved down the South Shore, Joe decided he wanted to come down and see our new home. The only problem was he never called and have me a heads-up he was coming. My wife, Mary, said, ‘Hey some just pulled up out front in a camper and he’s walking to the front door.’ I looked out the window and said, ‘Yup, that Joe Woz for ya.’ I was always happy to see Joe even when he showed up announced.
Another thing about Joe was he would never show up empty handed. Over the years, he’s given me all kinds of gifts such as plants, books, cookies, clothes, hats, and one time he even showed up with lamp! Get this one: one time he showed up to my parents’ house with a chainsaw and offered to trim their hedges and trees! And as far as I know, my Dad still has the saw.
That’s the kind of person Joe has always been, always thinking of others and willing to go out of his way to help someone out. Joe is definitely one of a kind and always had a heart of gold.
I’ll always miss you showing up out of the blue to say hello, or go to lunch, or to tale a ride to the beach, or to catch me up on what was going on in your life.
I’ll always remember you, Joe, as an adventurer, as someone who always lived life to the fullest, as someone who wasn’t afraid to walk through your fears to be the person you wanted to be, and being the person you wanted to be no matter what others may have thought of you.
Joe, thank you for your friendship, your support, and for all the memories.
I love you brother, and ‘til I see you again…rest in peace.