Remembering Big Joe

A week ago today my father-in-law passed away. Big Joe (Joe Palumbo) got his nickname after his first grandchild, Joey, was born. At least I never remember him being called Big Joe until his namesake was born. When I first met Big Joe (Mr. Palumbo at that time) I was 14. Penny and I had been seeing each other for a week or so and it was time to meet her father. When I told my dad I was going to meet Mr. Palumbo he asked me if I knew who he was. I had no idea other than Penny’s father. He told me he was the best football player to ever play at UVA and that on the football field he was the meanest man he’d ever seen. Needless to say I was a bit nervous but he couldn’t have been nicer. I never imagined at that time 36 years ago that Big Joe would become my father-in-law and that I would grow to love and respect Big Joe that way I do today.

rsz_11461608_10202766626596801_670104620_nI wasn’t going to write about Big Joe until I woke up this morning and realized I needed to. I needed to for me. When he passed away last Thursday night it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.  Joe had his wife, Sandy, and his daughters, Penny and Page, by his side with his 6 grandchildren. He passed away and for the next 15 minutes we all just sat there and told stories. I mentioned that I hoped I’d be that lucky one day. To live the life he lived and to have your family with you by your side when you go. And to have love that deep. What more could you ask?

Joe’s passing has inspired me. It’s inspired me to be a better person, a better husband, a better father, and to hopefully one day be a great and loving grandfather. Although Joe is gone his spirit is with all that he has touched. I can see it in my children. Drew has his drive and tenacity, Alex has his warmness and generosity, and Emma has his smile and lovingness.

We are all only here a short time and when all is said and done the real question is what impact will we leave? Are we being the best we can be ever day? Do we tell our love ones how much we love them every day? Do we give to the ones that have less than we do? Do we live every day like it’s our last? No one does all these things every day. But Big Joe came close. I’ve learned a lot from you Big Joe. I love you and will miss you.


Filed under Personal

14 responses to “Remembering Big Joe

  1. Betsy Swett

    Dear Philip,

    Jay and I are driving home from Richmond and i just read him your tribute to Big Joe. That was very special and so meaningful to us both. Thank you for sending it to us. We knew Joe many years ago through our friend Fred Colmer who is also deceased. Joe was a special friend to Fred and we learned of his many acts of kindness through him. I know all of his family will miss him very much. He was one of a kind for the Charlottesville community.

    Love to you and especially Penny,


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. charlottesvillecountry

    Thanks for the post Philip. John Ince Associate Broker at Nest Realty President Charlottesville Country Properties, Ltd. 126 Garrett Suite D Charlottesville, Virginia 22902 434-981-3011 email: web: blog: Subscribe to John’s blog at: Licensed to sell real estate in the state of Virginia facebook

  3. Melissa Bingler

    Thank you, Philip. I knew Mr. Palumbo for a very long time in many different ways. His sister was married to my cousin, my mother worked for him, and his daughter, Page, became my best friend, and then Penny became a little sister to me! A lifetime of wonderful memories. I am so glad that you wrote that loving piece about Big Joe. It was beautiful. The gathering at Glenmore, the messages people are posting, these are all great ways to help people heal. Philip, you are the best!


  4. Penny Mahone

    Thank you Philip for this post. When I get sad, I think about how much joy dad brought to me, everybody I love and many people I don’t even know, and my sadness is replaced by a smile. He was a great person and we can all learn a little something good from his actions.

  5. Lovely post Philip! What a great tribute! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Doretha M. Johnson

    Philip that was absolutely beautiful, I’m trying to write this through a curtain of tears. You have truly captured the whole essence of the Palumbo/Mahone family unity and it has been a great joy to have gotten to know all of you… you all dearly!

  7. Sandy

    Thank you, Philip. You were a son to Big Joe and you gave him three beautiful grandchildren that he cherished more than anything. And above all — I truly appreciate your words. They mean a lot to me, especially now.

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