In Memoriam: Joseph James Bifano

In Memoriam: Joseph James Bifano
Joseph James Bifano | SEPTEMBER 21, 1923 – APRIL 13, 2022

SEPTEMBER 21, 1923 – APRIL 13, 2022

Joseph James Bifano moved peacefully in his sleep from his earthly home in Jacksonville, Florida, to heaven on April 13, 2022. He would have been 99 years old this upcoming September. His dear, loving wife of almost 72 years, Joan Rose Schnorr Bifano, otherwise known as Joni, survives him. The name Joseph means ‘He shall add,’ and Joseph truly fulfilled the meaning of his name by adding many to God’s kingdom on this earth. Of those he added who survive him are his children: Joseph Bifano of Jacksonville, Florida; Jim Bifano of Appleton, Wisconsin (Shukwai Bifano) and grandchildren Sarah Stroy (Matt Stroy), Lisa Bifano, Nicholas Bifano (Jazzmin Genske) and Simon Bifano; Mary Bifano Dekker of Sheboygan, Wisconsin (Dave Dekker) and grandchildren Trenton Dekker (Denise Dekker), Davey Joe Dekker, and April Leffingwell (Jason Leffingwell); Chrissy Bifano Larson Leonhardt of Melrose, Florida (Larry Leonhardt) and grandchildren Jeremy Larson, James Larson (Angela Larson), Joanna Jones (Forrest Jones), Garrett Larson (Alondra Larson), and Lily Larson; Cathi Bifano Wilcox (Milt Wilcox) of Jacksonville, Florida; CeCe Bifano Cummings (Spencer Cummings) of Jacksonville, Florida and grandchildren Carter Cummings, Reese Cummings, and Audrey Cummings. Joseph was also proud of his 14 great-grandchildren and his nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Luigi Bifano and Angelina Soporito Bifano, one brother and five sisters, Mary, Lena, Rose, Millie, Peter (Biff), and Jenny, otherwise known as the Magnifico Seven. Joseph’s family moved from Calabria, Italy, and immigrated to the United States before little Joey was born. While the family was still finding a place to call home, Joseph James was born in Decatur, Illinois, on September 21, 1923. His family moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where Joe spent most of his childhood. Joe learned to play the drums at a very young age and was recognized for his talent early on. Many saw his gift, allowing him opportunities to play drums, which opened the doors for a lifetime musical career. He graduated from Central High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Class of 1942.

Joseph enlisted during WWII in the US Navy AirForce in 1942 and was chosen for his height to be trained as a belly gunner, going through numerous types of training. But when the Navy experienced his drum talent and band leadership, he was immediately recruited to lead the Navy Band for the First Officers Club in the Panama Canal Zone. The Navy valued Joe, and they honorably discharged him after WWII in 1945.

Joe met Joan Rose Schnorr from Kohler, Wisconsin, upon returning home from the war. After a whirlwind relationship, the couple tied the knot on October 14, 1950. They had six children and resided in the Sheboygan area, where Joe worked for JC Penney, Daley Vending Machine, Armour Leather, and Richardson Lumber Company until he retired. The remaining family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, to play music full-time.

After raising their younger children, his wife Joni, a star vocalist, joined Joe in their musical career. They entertained as a group for weddings, parties, Bar Mitzvahs, nightclubs, and TV performances. ‘Joe and Joni Live’ was the headliner for 17 years at Riverdale Country Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

But it was in Hawaii that Joe asked Jesus into his heart, changing his perspective of what was important. Joe moved most of the family back to the mainland, landing in Ft. Myers, then Jacksonville, Florida. He worked for Vistikon and used his musical talent for the Lord playing drums on various worship teams.

With each move came a new city and a new house or a home that needed renovating. Yes, this Joseph was also a carpenter. Jesus renovated Joe’s heart, and Joe’s deepest desire was that you know the power of this Jesus too.

Joe went by many names: Joseph, Joey, Joe, Dad, Papa, Brother, Uncle Joey, and Joe Banana. He especially LOVED his Joni and enjoyed matching their clothes. Joe couldn’t get enough of the Italian family sauce, watermelon, and just a little piece of chocolate fudge. He loved entertaining, doing pantomimes, singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ playing with babies, dreaming, and listening to loud jazz!

He was welcoming, friendly, had a positive attitude, was very engaging, interested, and a good listener, remembering facts from the last time you spoke. He was non-judgmental and always treated everyone the same. He enjoyed helping people, doing the right thing, and had a smile that wouldn’t quit.

When asked what the key to his longevity was, Joe would always answer, “The key is Jesus. He is the answer to a good life.” And a good L-O-N-G life Joseph James Bifano lived!

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