SIA Member Joe Tursi will be Missed

Longtime Society of Italian Americans member Joe Tursi passed away on February 17, 2010.  Joe was a former president of the Stemma D’Italia and helped found the Society of Italian Americans when the Stemma D’Italia merged with the Club of Italian Americans.  Joe, who was born in Terravecchia, Italy, was proud of his Italian heritage and shared his love of Italian culture with fellow club members and non-Italians.  Joe will be deeply missed by all of us in the club.   The following is taken from Joe’s obituary. 

Joseph S. Tursi was born in Terravecchia, Italy on November 8th, 1921 to Francesco and Carmela Tursi. When he was eight years old he immigrated to the United States. In 1937 his father bought Park Ave. Shoe Repair, which Joe operated while attending and graduating from Lincoln High School. In 1942 he hung up his apron and volunteered for the Army Air Corps, in which he served honorably in England during World War II. After returning to the U.S., he married Sarah Fazio on January 8th, 1950 at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and loved her for more than sixty years. In 1952, with his brother Paul, Joe expanded Park Ave. Shoe Repair into Tursi’s Clothing, which in the mid – 70’s was one of the largest privately owned clothing stores in the Midwest. Joe owned and operated the clothing store for over 40 years. After retiring he stayed active by constantly volunteering and by working with his son at the Latin King Restaurant. He hugged every lady who walked in the door and cleared tables faster than any teen-aged bus boy up until December of 2008. Joe loved interacting with people and had to be on the move. Even in his last days, he refused to use a wheel chair.  Joe passed from this life on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at Mercy Hospice in Johnston at the age of 88. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at 10 a.m. Monday, February 22, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church where he was a lifelong member. Burial followed at Glendale Cemetery.  Visitation was held at Hamilton’s Southtown Funeral Home on Sunday, February 21st from 2-7 pm with the family present from 2-4 pm and from 5:30-7 pm. A Bellizzi MacRae American Legion service took place at 5:30pm, followed by the Society of Italian Americans and a rosary service.

His life was guided by a few simple philosophies: Always be a gentleman; never go to sleep mad at the ones you love; family first; and why make one girl miserable when you can make them all happy? The latter was a guiding force only during his earlier years and was preached to his grandsons during rough patches of adolescent relationships. While these philosophies were simple, they led Joe to accomplish many things. Joe is the former President of the Stemma D’Italia; he started the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of St. Anthony’s; he belonged to the Build Lincoln Higher Club; he sat on the Board of Brenton Bank and on the Board of Health for the State of Iowa. He helped to found the Society of Italian Americans, was a member of the Knights of Columbus, started the Columbus Day Dinner Celebration, and honored his roots by collecting donations for an annual celebration in his hometown of Terravecchia and it’s parish, San Pietro in Vincoli. He was active in the American Legion, the Fleur Nursing Home, the Isaac Walton League, St. Anthony’s Church, and was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.

If asked, Joe would have said that his greatest pleasure was his family. Left to always honor his memory are his wife, Sarah; his daughter, Carmela (Robert) Hobbins, grandchildren, Brian, Patrick (Jeannie), Teddy, and great granddaughter, Lilly Hobbins; his son Frank (Molly), his grandchildren, Joe, Katie (Chul) Lee, Bridget, Jenna, Anna, and his great granddaughter, Mia Sun Lee; his son, Joe (Joan) and grandchildren, Kristina (Aaron) Anderson, Tony and David; his son, Bob (Amy), and grandchildren, Gina and RJ, brother, Paul (Darlene), and special cousins, Pete, Mary, and Dale Tursi, who were all fortunate enough to have shared in Joe’s life.

The lessons he left his family are basic but invaluable: Love one another; love your spouse; help others; and don’t complain. He showed us how in the way he treated us, in his relationship with Sarah, by the countless people he readily assisted, and by responding, “Not bad, not bad,” when asked how he was doing on the day he died. With his quiet confidence and consistently optimistic outlook on life, he was the greatest role model a family could have. He was an inspiration throughout his life and will continue to be in death.  Memorial contributions may be given to the St. Anthony’s Church Foundation.  Online condolences may be made to

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