Uncle Joe – Guest Blogger Maree O’Brien

My mother Dahlia with her brother Joe Fiore, aka the Bull.
My mother Dahlia with her brother Joe Fiore, aka the Bull.

As a special treat today, I asked my sister Maree to guest blog. She wrote Uncle Joe about my mother’s oldest brother, often referred to by his nickname – the Bull. He kept all of the Fiore children in line and was not the kind of guy you’d want to try to fool or disobey. In contrast to his role as family disciplinarian, he was one of the sweetest, kindest men I’ve ever known. Being the youngest, I didn’t get to know him as well as Maree did, so I’m happy to share her memories here.

Uncle Joe

His face wore the tanned, leather-like appearance of one who spent many years out in the elements. Not unlike his father Giovanni Fiore, Joe, his eldest son, too, possessed the tinkling dark brown eyes and the broad grin of a kind and happy man.

Uncle Joe and I were kindred spirits. We both loved animals, horses in particular. Actually anything from toads to elephants earned our interest and affection, just by being.

Neither Uncle Joe’s wife Gilda, nor any others in my immediate family shared a love of beasts like Uncle Joe and me. He had a beautiful collie named Bonny, who lived outdoors all of her life. She did have a beautiful dog house as Aunt Gilda as always eager to point out, because “Animals didn’t belong in the house.”

Uncle Joe also took up the responsibility of “Ruby,” an old tick and flea adorned German shepherd who just appeared one day and stayed at the sand and gravel plant that my uncle and his brothers owned in Wakefield, Rhode Island. I think Ruby must have heard about Aunt Gilda’s “Animal Manifesto” and decided he could be just as happy with the men and the trucks.

Uncle Joe fed and watered Ruby and gave him probably the only pats and kind words he ever got. Ruby was my self-appointed guardian whenever I stayed with my Aunts Sue and Alice, who lived just in back of the sand and gravel plant. Ruby followed me everywhere, except indoors, as Aunt Sue also subscribed to Gilda’s outdoor pets manifesto.

Just about the time of Uncle Joe’s 60th birthday he acquired a horse. A chestnut standard bred gelding who retired from the race track years ago and luckily escaped the fate of most retired racers. Uncle Joe built “Duke” a barn in back of the sand and gravel plant, and there he happily spent his remaining days.

To me, that barn was heaven. I always wanted a horse, though God knows where I would have put one in a second story apartment in Providence. And then there was my Father’s manifesto, similar to Gilda and Sue.

Anyway, I went and visited Duke all the time. We indulged in very long conversations, and sometimes I’d fall asleep on the bales of hay in his barn. Uncle Joe would check on Duke before leaving work for home, only to find me there napping. When he later dropped me off at Sue and Alice’s place, I would get a suspicious look from Aunt Sue, who would not have approved of my spending the day in a barn talking to a horse; but once Uncle Joe vowed I was with him all day, that would end it.

Duke only lived a few more years in Uncle Joe’s barn. I don’t recall the cause or the events that led to his demise, but I know that Uncle Joe was heartbroken. Here he had waited so long to live a dream only to have it end too soon.

Uncle Joe and I didn’t see so much of each other in the years that followed. I was in high school and we now lived in the northwest part of Rhode Island, while he remained in the south in Wakefield. But we always talked about the “old” days and Duke whenever we did get together.

Uncle Joe passed away in the early 90’s. He was in his 80’s and I know he lived a good and happy life. I think of him often and know he would have enjoyed my dogs and the dog shows and the puppies. He especially would have loved the fact that I now have a horse, and that I too waited until I turned 60 to find my Arabian Koshari.

Thanks Uncle Joe for all of the love and caring you showed toward all of the animals and to me. Maybe I will help you take care of God’s creatures when we meet again.

11 thoughts on “Uncle Joe – Guest Blogger Maree O’Brien

    1. He was special Ed. Took so much responsibility for his 7 siblings, even after everyone was all grown. My mother adored all of her brothers But I think Joe was her favorite in so many ways. You’re right. Everyone should be so lucky.


  1. Pingback: The Picture Man – An Excerpt from ‘A Girl From the Hill: My Mother’s Journey from Italian Girl to American Woman” « pattytmitchell

  2. Dina Fiore Schafer

    I was trying to research my family… so excited to find this and brought me to tears… this is my grandpa Joe “papa”. who will always have a special place in my heart. My father is John Fiore and I’m Dina Schafer (Fiore). What a great story and can’t wait to share it with my dad. Please feel free to email me.
    Dina Joe’s grandaughter


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