Joseph DiOrio, 92, of Ocean City, NJ, and formerly of Somers Point, retired entrepreneur, public servant and community philanthropist, passed away peacefully on Sunday, June 8, 2014 surrounded by his loving family.
The owner of the landmark Joe DiOrio’s Circle Café in Somers Point, Mr. DiOrio built and operated a successful night club, restaurant and package goods business, serving and greeting the public since 1950. For his hard work and enthusiasm, helping to build the Somers Point business community, he received the Resolution for Excellence from the Joint Legislation of the State of New Jersey in 2000.
Mr. DiOrio believed in the economic feasibility of the Atlantic City area and invested in a number of businesses, serving as a partner in Greate Bay Country Club and The Brighton Casino Hotel from 1972 to 1981.
His success in the business world was trumped only by his public and civic service. He began his affiliation with what was truly his greatest love, Shore Medical (formerly Shore Memorial Hospital) when he was just a boy, mowing the lawn and doing odd jobs for 50¢ a week. He served on the Board of Trustees from 1963 until his death. He was Board president in 1972 and 1973, and chairman in 1974 and 1975. He received the Award of Gratitude from over 1300 Shore Memorial Hospital employees in December, 2000. In November, 2003 the hospital named a room, DiOrio Hall in honor of his dedicated service. In 2009 he was presented with the Stainton Society Inner Circle Award for outstanding philanthropy. In 2013 Shore Medical established The DiOrio Society in his honor, which recognizes those who commit to preserve and enhance the healthcare needs of the community by a gift to the hospital through bequests, life income or other planned gifts. The hospital has created the DiOrio Award which is presented annually to the employee who best contributes to the culture of caring at Shore.
Mr. DiOrio had an active political life, serving as a Somers Point City councilman for 18 years, and was chosen as council president for 12 of those years. He was a lifetime member of the Somers Point Kiwanis Club (president, 1955), the Somers Point American Legion, Clark-Eliason Post, and the Ocean City VFW.
He was an advisor, director, and/or chairman of various Somers Point programs, including Memorial Day Services, Children’s Christmas parties, Halloween parades, the Little League, and the Somers Point Boys Club. For his tireless dedication to public service the City of Somers Point honored him as the Distinguished Citizen of the Decade for the years 1970-1980.
Born in Philadelphia on Nov. 6, 1921, he was raised on Richmond Avenue in Atlantic City. He graduated from Atlantic City High School in 1938, Pennington Prep School in 1940, and attended Trenton State Teachers College (now The College of NJ) before entering the military. After his military service he attended Princeton University and graduated with honors from Rutgers University in 1948 with a BS in Education. He earned varsity letters at all three colleges for football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse. He was an All-American in lacrosse and president of the Varsity “R” Club at Rutgers.
Mr. DiOrio interrupted his education to serve in the United States Marine Corps from 1942-1945. He earned the rank of First Sergeant. He participated in three major invasions in the Pacific Theater during World War II, including battles in Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Roi, Namur, Anubis, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein. Wounded three times, he was a Purple Heart Veteran. He also received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Naval Commendation Medal, and New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Clusters.
Upon returning from the war, he married his sweetheart and love of his life, Shirley Sannino of Ocean City on September 15, 1946. The couple was married for 53 years. Mr. DiOrio credited his wife for helping to build his business empire and raise his family. Mrs. DiOrio passed away on November 22, 1998.
Of all of his accomplishments, Mr. DiOrio was most proud of his role as a dedicated loving husband, father and grandfather. He was predeceased by his first born son Joseph, Jr. in 1947. He is survived by four children, F. Joseph DiOrio and his wife Stacy of Egg Harbor Twp., Dennis DiOrio of Ocean City, Terri DiOrio of Somers Point, and Janet DiOrio Galante and her husband Tony of Ocean City, and four grandchildren, Joe Galante of Ewing, NJ, Michael Galante of Ocean City and Boulder, CO, Michael DiOrio and Jamie DiOrio, and their mother Valerie DiOrio of Egg Harbor Twp. He is also survived by: his loyal aide, Florence Driscoll of Ocean City, brother-in-law John Sannino of Somers Point, cousin Jack Devine of Ocean City, many nieces, nephews, and extended family members and friends who affectionately called him “Joe, Uncle Joe, Pepper, Ace, or Mr. D.” In addition he is survived by the entire Shore Medical Community whom he felt was another family to him.
A man of deep faith, he was a member of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Somers Point for 54 years and St. Frances Cabrini Church in Ocean City from 2000 until his death.
An avid golfer, he was a member of Atlantic City Country Club for 50 years and Greate Bay Country Club (formerly the Ocean City-Somers Point Golf Club) from 1951 until 2011. He played four to seven days a week since 1951. He was known for a handicap as low as 5 and shot eight career holes in one. He shot his age at 73.
If he wasn’t playing a sport, he was supporting or watching one. He was an active fan of Mainland Regional High School and Ocean City High School. He was a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1960, but loved the Green Bay Packers because they were coached by his favorite, Vince Lombardi. He was a huge New York Yankees fan from 1930 until his death. He took his wife Shirley to see the Yanks play on their Honeymoon in 1946. He not only followed the NFL and MLB, but also the NHL, PGA tour, and USA Olympics. He loved college sports as well, and in addition to the three schools he attended, rooted for Notre Dame, and Penn State. Some of his favorite sports figures were Joe DiMaggio, Lombardi, Arnold Palmer, Lou Holtz, and Tiger Woods. In his retirement, his passion was to sit in his recliner and watch a bank of seven TV sets tuned into his favorite games. He kept page 2 of the Press Sports section next to his chair every day to establish his schedule. This set-up caused one friend to dub his place “The ESPN Bachelor Pad.”
In his most recent years Joe enjoyed riding his bike on the Ocean City boardwalk and greeting his many friends. When health issues no longer allowed him to ride, he would park himself at 13th Street on the boardwalk where he would tip his Notre Dame or Marine hat to the ladies who went by. He would call to anyone wearing anything Notre Dame. A spellbinding raconteur, he also had library of jokes in his head for every occasion, and always had a kind word for whomever he encountered until the time of his death.
Friends may call Sunday evening, June 15th from five until eight o’clock and Monday morning, June 16th from ten until half past 11 o’clock at St. Augustine’s RC Church of St. Damien Parish, 13th Street at Wesley Avenue, Ocean City, NJ, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial being offered at Noon. Burial will follow mass in Seaside Cemetery, Palermo, NJ.
Memorial donations in his memory may be made to The DiOrio Society at Shore Medical Center Foundation, 100 Medical Center Way, Somers Point, NJ 08244. (609)-653-3800