Class Memorial Pages\H-1 Joe Russo.pdf
Joseph Paul Russo,
son of Joseph and Maria (Catania) Russo, was born in the Bronx.
When Joe was two and a half years old, his father died, and in 1944, Joe's
mother married Henry "Hank" Judermanns, a hotel manager from Shreveport, LA, who
adopted Joe without name change. Joe was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and
attended elementary school at P.S. 168 in Manhattan. Joe was introduced to the
profession of arms at Xavier High, a Catholic military school from which he
graduated in 1956. Joe was a natural athlete who played almost all sports.
Between seasons he sometimes took to the golf links, but he rarely exhibited a
great affinity for academics.
Joe's gentle soul harbored a streak of daredevil.
As a youngster, he broke his arm when he donned a Superman cape and leapt
from the roof of his home in Queens. He was self-reliant and seemed always to
have work, including making deliveries for a butcher shop and a drug store. Joe
helped a great deal at church, where he especially liked to instruct children in
handball, and he could always be counted on to lend a helping hand.
Joe's family had the University of Notre Dame in
mind, but Joe had had a taste of the military and knew about West Point. Joe did
well on a pre-qualification test, after which his stepfather introduced him to a
U.S. senator who provided Joe with an appointment. Joe entered West Point in
Joe was universally liked and respected by his
fellow cadets. After a while, there were few in his company who dared challenge
him to a game of handball. Joe had a way with people that made you want to be
chosen by him as a friend. At West Point, he took academics a bit more seriously
than in high school, but after a particularly tough cow year semester, the
Academic Board decided that Joe needed to sit out for a half of a year and then
give it another go. Joe was reassigned to the Class of'61.
Often using mood music ranging from classic
instrumentals to trail songs, Joe studied more efficiently and maintained
proficiency in all subjects. He took pride in his Sicilian ancestry and its
traditions of romance and wit. Practice on his comedy routines, however,
sometimes came at the expense of better class preparation. Always ready with a
good one-liner, Joe nurtured his keen sense of humor and carefree outlook on
life. In his final year, Joe once had some fun by dispatching a plebe across
Central Area to report to an upperclassman's identical twin brother, who was in
on the ruse. The twin's job was to try to convince the plebe that he had just
lost a foot race with an upperclassman, even after being given a huge head
Discarding the super hero fantasies of his youth,
Joe developed a liking for sporty automobiles. A tough lesson on French-made
transmissions was learned the day Joe marched in
President Kennedy's inaugural parade. One of the young ladies being escorted by
Joe and two of his classmates offered her father's car for transportation
between the various Inaugural Balls. Joe's great confidence led him to take
over the wheel of the unfamiliar foreign vehicle to negotiate the ice, snow,
and other hazardous road conditions. At the end of a very enjoyable evening,
however, only reverse and one forward gear remained operational. Being the man
of honor that he was, Joe conferred with the young lady's father the following
morning and somehow managed to get everyone off the hook.
Upon graduation, Joe took his commission in the
Signal Corps, serving in Germany at Frankfurt, and later at Stuttgart. With his
sleek Jaguar, Joe bragged about taking real advantage of the unlimited speeds
allowed on the autobahns. He also is reported to have gone through at
least one engine on his Sunbeam Alpine. Joe next served in Utah, attaining the
rank of captain. After completing a tour of duty in Viet Nam, he returned to the
United States in 1968 and also returned to civilian life.
Joe came home to be close to his family and took a
job performing engineering and architectural work for a construction company.
Joe gave great comfort to his mother when Hank passed away. A man of outdoors
and action, Joe soon felt caged in by his nine-tofive office work. He much
preferred his next job as a high school physical education teacher. In 1981,
with a view toward increasing his income tax bracket, Joe created and began the
operation of his house painting business, a place where he could set his own
hours and work along with his employees as he pleased.
Although constantly in search for the ideal woman
to become his wife, Joe sadly never found her. In 1992, Joe's luck really took a
nosedive when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Ever sustained by his faith
and trust in God throughout a tenacious battle with malignancy, this gentle
soldier remained an inspiration to his mother, family members, and friends
alike. Joe's course on earth reached its end at Point Pleasant, NJ. Many came
for his funeral services at the Catholic Chapel and burial at West Point.
Never too old for anything, he always had fun,
found humor in almost everything, and left great memories for those whose lives
he touched. Joe is missed, but his spirit lives on.