Joseph Thomas Cristarella

Click Home to go to the main page,  click back to the Family Page or click for an Alphabetic List of all Names.


Joseph Thomas Cristarella was born on March 23, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the second child of Fioravanti Cristarella and Calugerina Sabella. He was the first Cristarella grandson born to this generation. During his birth there were complications which left him a bit slower than other children. He did not speak until he was 4 years old and when he did, he stuttered.  He attended Saint Simon and Jude Catholic school in Brooklyn, which did not go well. When the family moved to West Hempstead, Nassau County on  LI, his parents hired a Speech Therapist and he attended Woodfield Road School. After a few years he was transferred to a private elementary school in Queens which helped him with his speech problems. During camp one summer, he learned to swim and he became an excellent swimmer, just like his mother. He loved to watch the Three Stooges and those old 50's horror movies like Godzilla. He loved to scare his siblings after they all watched such scary movies. With his sister, he took roller skating lessons. She dropped out, but he loved it. He went on to learn how to dance on roller skates and became very good at it. He advanced to be one of the special dancers, they'd clear the rink to let them dance as couples. He went to many different skating rinks, but liked the Mineola Rink the best.

He eventually went to Parkside Junior High School in Massapequa, which was a public school, but was put in a lower grade for his age. School was not easy for him. He struggled and left school just about the time the government was drafting for the Vietnam conflict. He now worked full time in his father's die cutting business and went roller skating almost every evening. As soon as he was of age, he was drafted into the US Army.

He entered the army on September 28, 1965 and trained at Fort Dix, New Jersey. After basic training, he was deployed to Vietnam as a Private First Class. When he first got there, he took many slides of the beauty of the Vietnamese coast line and wrote home frequently. He was part of a Quartermaster unit which brought supplies, including Agent Orange, to the front lines. He wrote home about the conflicts he was in-how while crossing a bridge, the guy in front of him and the guy behind him were shot and killed, but he wasn't. But the letters became fewer and fewer. He arrived in California safely on July 4, 1967, and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. When his military service was completed, he came home to Brooklyn, but he wasn't the same Joey.  He never spoke again of his time in Vietnam.

He got his own studio apartment in the same building as his parents on East 17th St and started to work for the NY Telephone Company. He managed a rock band and introduced his sister to her future guitar playing husband. He was their best man and godfather to their second daughter.

In 1971, he joined the National Guard for 2 years. He left the phone company and worked in various places including for his father's new business, but felt he did not fit in anywhere. He started to research religions, studying with all different faith groups and reading the bible.  Every once in a while he'd call his siblings and talk about faith and God. He did much research and was on a faith journey trying to make sense of life.

He moved to a bigger apartment on Bay Ridge Ave in Brooklyn and adopted a few cats. Then he began having problems with his health. His doctors told him his health problems were caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Even though, he never drank alcohol, his liver was failing. His life became a battle with the government, fighting for his health and veteran rights.

He never cared about how he looked or dressed, or what he had or did not have. He enjoyed eating, especially Chinese and Vietnamese food and did not drink any alcohol, not even beer. In 1979, he bought a red car, and parked it in front of  his sister's house and took the engine apart and put it back together. He worked on it every weekend and vacation in cold and hot weather, taking the train out on Long Island both ways. After his father died in 1985, his health went downhill rapidly and he could no longer work. He went on disability and continued with his research of faith and God.

He was a very giving person. When his mother died in 1990, he gave whatever he could carry of her furniture and belongings to his friends in need. By this time, he no longer owned a car, so whatever he took went on the train and bus back to his friends. He used the money received from her estate to live on and buy a small motor bike. The bike was stolen from in front of his apartment after only a few months.

Joey never married or had children. He suffered a stroke while walking down a street in Brooklyn on November 17, 2001 and went into a coma. He was taken to the Emergency Room in Maimonides Hospital where they did brain surgery to relieve the blood clot in his brain. Joey remained in a coma and the prognosis was poor. He suffered substantial brain damage and had no eye pupil response. There was some motor/sensory response in his lower body but the doctor did not believe that Joey would make it. Even if he were to regain consciousness, the doctors believed that he would never be able to take care of himself or have sufficient self-awareness to know who he is or recognize his family. He said that Joey most likely will continue to live in a coma for weeks, or at most, months with "no quality of life." They were making plans to release him to a nursing home in the NYC-Metro area that has ventilator units in a ward that takes care of comatose patients, when he began to bleed-out. They did several operations on him, but each successful operation, led to a bleed-out in another area of his body. He died of internal bleeding on December 14, 2001 almost a month after the stroke. He never woke up.

His body was cremated at the Cremation Memorial Center in Monroe, NY- near Peekskill and stored there until the remaining family, who were spread out over North America, could make funeral arrangements. 

On May 3, 2002, his ashes were buried in a military service at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island in Suffolk County, NY. His siblings came in for the service as well as nieces, cousins, aunts, and friends from Staten Island, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and other states. His flag was presented to the family and has since been donated to a Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall to fly every day. After the service everyone gathered in a local restaurant to have a good meal in  honor of Joey and remember the good times we each shared with him.

He will not be forgotten.