Strong ties to community

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Joe Sgambelluri.
Camera IconJoe Sgambelluri.

Giuseppe Sgambelluri, or Joe as he was known, was born in Grupadaro, Calabria, on February 20, 1927.

Within months of being born, his father, Pietro, could see problems with the new style of government and left for Australia to create a new life for his family.

Raised by his mother in Italy for the first 11 years of his life, Joe spent a lot of his time with his uncle and farmer, Joe Tarzie, who showed him how to look after the family herd.

In 1940 his father was interned for World War II, leaving Joe to support and provide for his family at the age of 13.

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His father was later released from the war and together they worked growing vegetables of the highest quality.

Joe spent most of his life self-employed, but also spent a short time at the Public Works Department driving buses.

“It wasn’t long before one of his passengers, Domenica Italiano, informed her granddaughter Katie Italiano of the ‘handsome, blue-eyed bus driver with a gold watch’ that might just be the one,” his son, Peter said.

“After hearing so much about one another, Katie Italiano and Joe Sgambelluri finally met, and it was love at first sight.”

In 1953 the pair were married and spent the next 66 years of their life together.

Katie and Joe bought a small restaurant in Harvey, and as their business grew, so did their family.

Carol was born first, then Peter, Julie and John.

Joe joined the Rotary Club and became president in 1972, was appointed a justice of the peace and frequently served as the local judge.

“Dad always contributed to the local community,” Peter said.

“He interpreted for many people and took them to and from wherever they needed to go, still running his own business and planting potatoes. Dad always found time to help people because he wanted to.”

In 1979 after the family business was sold, Joe and his wife returned to Italy where they spent three months reconnecting with family and friends.

In the same year that they returned, Joe’s father Pietro passed away.

“In retirement, Dad pursued what he loved most, working the land, growing potatoes and tomatoes with his good friend Paul Commisso,” Peter said

“I fondly remember the conversations and stories the two of them used to share.

In 1989, Joe lost his mother.

“This was a sad time in his life as they were so close.”

Years later, Joe stopped planting crops and started working with his brother Louie in the local supermarket.

“His job was to cut and pre-pack the vegetables and help out the back, and Dad would also make sure that there was as little waste as possible.

“During his 13 years of working at the shop, his greatest enjoyment was interacting and sharing stories with customers at the front.”

In the years following, Joe led a fairly simple life.

“He was happy to stay at home with Mum and spend time with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,” Peter said.

“In 2013 Dad lost his son-in-law, Murray, and this really affected him. A year later we noticed Dad’s health was starting to decline, but he still managed to maintain his sense of humour, hospitality and kind, gentle nature.

“As time went on, Dad’s health progressively worsened and the majority of his time was spent at home, occupying himself with trying to find new ways to escape.

“Dad’s last year was spent at home with those closest to him.

“There were good and bad days, however, even in these latter stages, he would still often surprise us with the odd comment or joke.

“No matter what, Dad always found the strength to fight the ailments that often present in older age.” Unfortunately on September 29, 2019, Joe could not fight them off any more.

“While we are sad, we are also grateful to have had Dad for as long as we have.

“Dad shaped the people we are. He taught us the basic values of life, one of which was, ‘respect and earn respect’, treat everyone equally, help when and where you can and once you have helped, never look back.”

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