YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Joseph Leo Cassese was a first-generation Italian American, born on July 26, 1931 to Carmine and Catherine (Guerriero) Cassese, originally of Naples, Italy. He was born and raised at 410 N. Walnut Street in Youngstown’s Smoky Hollow.
His father opened a pool hall in front of their home in 1927. With the end of Prohibition, Carmine obtained the second liquor license in the city and added a bar to the pool hall, cementing what would become the Mahoning Valley Restaurant (MVR) as a neighborhood staple. Following his father’s death in 1960, Joe ran the MVR for nearly four decades. He oversaw the addition of the dining room, outdoor bocce courts and outdoor patio, growing at a time when much in downtown Youngstown was receding. Through YSU tailgates and annual Corn Roasts, he established the MVR as an endeared place for gathering with family and friends. After passing the MVR to his son, Carmine, in 1997, Joe remained an MVR fixture, greeting customers from the bench outside or on his favorite stool at the end of the bar.
Joe met his wife, the former Carmela Altomare of Leetonia, during her time as a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s. They were married on August 12, 1954 and raised five children. Their 67 years of marriage were marked by a shared dedication to their family, faith and each other (along with a healthy dose of playful banter).
Joe’s Catholic faith was integral to his life. He attended St. Columba Elementary School and Ursuline High School. A strong believer in Catholic education, he proudly saw all of his children and grandchildren graduate from Cardinal Mooney High School.
He was a lifelong parishioner of St. Dominic Parish, where he served as an usher for 60 years. His punctuality for Mass (at least 30 minutes early) and dedication to his daily prayers set the tone for his family.
PaPa Joe, as he was known to many, established beloved traditions for his grandchildren, including Saturday “Donut Days” and Sunday morning breakfasts at Pappan’s. His family will remember how much he enjoyed listening to Frank Sinatra, watching the Yankees, drinking coffee at Dunkin Donuts, playing racquetball at the YMCA and riding his bike along Fort Myers Beach.
PaPa Joe passed away peacefully in his sleep at 4:10 a.m. on Friday, August 27, 2021 at the Inn at Walker Mill.
He will be reunited with those who have passed before him, including his son, Carmine Cassese; granddaughter, Jaclyn Cassese; son-in-law, Mike Coristin; sister, Rose Marie Mondora; brother, Frank Cassese and sister-in-law, Roseelia DiVincenzo.
He will be dearly missed by his wife, Carmela; daughters, Theresa (Tony) Provenzale, Carla Coristin, Gina (Pat) Kiraly and Lia (Bill) Stana; daughter-in-law, Patty Cassese; grandchildren, Joe, Kristin, Laura, Michelle, Michael, Frank, Dena, Carmela, Maria, Angela, Patrick, Billy and Mia; 20 great-grandchildren; sisters, Pasqualina Montana and Donna Villano; brothers-in-law, Lou (Linda) Altomare, Michael (Marcy) Altomare and Gene DiVincenzo and numerous nieces and nephews.
His family would like to thank PaPa Joe’s home health caregivers, Ed and Diane Reese, Ohio Living Hospice agency and the entire staff of the Inn at Walker Mill for their compassionate care.
The family will receive relatives and friends on Monday, August 30 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Rossi Brothers and Lellio Funeral Home, 4442 South Avenue, Boardman.
Prayers will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at the funeral home followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 a.m. at Saint Dominic Church, Youngstown.
He will be laid to rest in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Leetonia.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in PaPa Joe’s memory to the Carmine L. Cassese Scholarship at Cardinal Mooney High School, 2545 Erie Street, Youngstown, OH 44507 or the Joe and Carmela Cassese Scholarship at Youngstown State University c/o YSU Foundation, 655 Wick Avenue, Youngstown, OH 44502.
Family and are encouraged to offer prayers for the family and support via phone call, text, email or may visit the Book of Memories at www.rossifunerals.com to send condolences to PaPa Joe’s family.