Granted 92 years, Joseph Minerva of Huntington filled his with happiness, surmounting all the mishaps and misfortunes that no one completely escapes, which included the grievous loss of his wife four decades ago, with a steady calm and ready smile.
"He was always even-keeled, and always happy, and always calm and never stressed, ever — I don’t know how he did it, it’s really a gift," his son Jerome Minerva, also of Huntington, said by telephone.
It may seem incongruous and yet an abiding faith also guided this independent spirit.
"He definitely was God-fearing, he definitely lived his life right on the straight and narrow," Minerva said, "but with certain things, he liked to push the limit, and he always got away with it, he was daring and pulled it off."
Joseph Minerva was stricken with COVID-19 in January; he died of complications on May 17.
As a machinist for 35 years for Republic Aviation and then Fairchild-Republic Co. until the Farmingdale plant was shuttered in 1987, Minerva helped design the instruments that produced one of Long Island’s most famous aircraft.
That was the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog," the Gulf War superstar, whose stunning ability to fly low and decimate enemy tanks and artillery silenced early ridicule of its stocky appearance.
It was at Republic that Minerva revealed some of his real priorities — family and travel — along with a bit of that free spirit.
Allowed only two or three weeks of vacation, he and his wife, Anna, instead took their four children on a five-week camping week to California.
"And when he finally showed up to work, he got like a dirty look from his supervisor, and the guy just shook his head, my father kind of shrugged his shoulders; he got away with it because he could, it was a good and strong union, and Dad was fearless," Jerome Minerva said.
"He was like, ‘This is a once-in-a-life time thing, I’m not going to let them put a time limit on it.’ "
During an era when women mainly ruled the kitchen, he reveled in cooking his grandmother’s special recipe for meat sauce. "He was like a maestro, he was a little bit like Fred Astaire, he used to kind of dance and cook at the same time," his son said.
"He used to love to tell stories and cook and talk about his father," who emigrated from southern Italy in 1910, settling in Brooklyn, where Joseph Minerva was born, and then Queens.
After graduating from Forest Hills High School, he was drafted by the Army, serving from 1950 to 1952.
Water skiing in Jamaica Bay was one of his pastimes; traveling remained central, from trips to Lake George, sometimes with grandchildren, to Florida, where he attended 25 NASCAR championships at Daytona International Speedway.
"He had a real passion for the horsepower and the speed of those cars — and the engineering," his son said. "He loved the fans, he loved the pageantry."
At 26, after a Florida trip, he and his friends opted for a dance in Jamaica, Queens, instead of one in Manhattan — and it was there that he met Anna Alfano.
"He saw this woman with blonde hair, and he liked what he saw," his son said, so he invited her to dance. "And she looked him up and down, and saw his pearly whites and good tan, and she said ‘OK.’ "
Married in 1959, they moved to Huntington. Anna Minerva died in 1981; no other romance could compare. "He even said, ‘I’m going to need to become a father and a mother to you guys,’ " he told his children, his son recalled. "And he was right; he tried dating a little bit … and it didn’t work out for him; my mom was his soul mate."
Besides his son, survivors include three other children, Joe of Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, Tom of Smithtown, and Janine Nagle of East Northport; brother, Vito of Franklin Square; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.