Family, community mourn Joe DiOrio

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Joe and Shirley DiOrio at a formal occasion, in an undated family photo. Joe and Shirley DiOrio at a formal occasion, in an undated family photo. Joseph DiOrio served his country in the Marine Corps during World War II and returned to build a business empire - including the landmark Joe DiOrio’s Circle Café - serve in city government and as a lifetime member of the board of trustees and past president of Shore Medical Center lead the way for several expansions.

A loving husband, father and grandfather, the retired entrepreneur, public servant and community philanthropist died on Sunday, June 8. He was 92.

Janet DiOrio Galante said her father died peacefully, surrounded by his family.

“He said he had absolutely no regrets, and he meant it,” she said.

In retirement, DiOrio enjoyed riding his three-wheeled bicycle on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

“He loved to see people,” said Galante.

No matter where he went, he would tip his U.S. Marine Corps hat in greeting.

“There were so many little things that made Joe DiOrio, Joe DiOrio,” she said. “The way he tipped his hat, that he gave silver dollars to kids, told lousy jokes, and on and on.”

Her father had a huge impact on the family, she said.
“Until the day he died, we learned from him,” she said.

“He had such style and flair,” she said.

Her father touched a lot of lives, she said, but his family learned as he was dying that his impact was extraordinary.
“We didn’t how deeply he touched people,” she said. “Up until two days before he died he was still taking visitors. We learned how much he meant to each and every person.”

Galante said saying goodbye was tough.

“I have a big hole in my heart. He was a great dad,” she said. “I’m really lucky. He was everybody’s friend, but he was my dad.”

Terri DiOrio shared her sister’s sentiment.

“I’m still numb,” she said. “I knew he was active in the community but I had no idea how much he meant to so many people, how attached they were.”

“He was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, a true gentleman,” said Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, who served with DiOrio on Shore Medical Center’s board of trustees. “I had the honor of serving with him, he was a great mentor.”

DiOrio served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees from 1963 until his death. He was president in 1972 and 1973 and chairman in 1974 and 1975.  

“Shore Medical Center is a nicer place because of Joe DiOrio, because of all of his hard work. He was a gentle soul, a great guy,” said Gillian, adding that he was also a generous benefactor who gave in many ways.

DiOrio, he said, would say hello to everyone he encountered in the halls of Shore Medical Center.

“He knew everyone’s name,” said Gillian.

DiOrio received the Award of Gratitude from more than 1,300 Shore Memorial Hospital employees on Dec. 4, 2000. On Nov. 24, 2003, Shore Medical Center named DiOrio Hall after him.

Born in Philadelphia on Nov. 4, 1921, DiOrio was raised in Atlantic City. He graduated Atlantic City High School in 1938 and Pennington Prep School in 1940 before entering the military. After World War II he attended Trenton State Teacher’s College and Princeton University before graduating from Rutgers University with honors in 1948. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Education, and varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse. He was a college All-American in lacrosse and president of the Varsity “R” Club at Rutgers. 

DiOrio served in the Marine Corps from 1941 to 1945, earning the rank of First Sergeant. Wounded three times, he was a Purple Heart veteran. He participated in three major invasions in the Pacific Theater during World War II, including battles in Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Roi, Namur, Enubir, Enewetok and Kawajelin.

For his efforts, he was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Victory Medal, a Presidential Citation, Navy Commendation, New Jersey Distinguished Citizen Clusters and Purple Heart Clusters.

Upon returning from the war, he married his longtime sweetheart, Shirley Sannino from Ocean City on Sept. 15, 1946. Shirley DiOrio died in 1998.

In building Joe DiOrio’s Circle Café in Somers Point in 1950, DiOrio built and operated a successful night club, restaurant and packaged goods business. In 2000, he received a Resolution for Excellence from the Joint Legislation of the state of New Jersey for his hard work and enthusiasm in helping to rebuild the Somers Point business community.

Galante said her father credited her mother for the success of his businesses.

“Behind every great man is a better woman,” she said. “My mom was the unsung hero, she supported him in every way. They made a great team.”

The former vice chairman of Action Bank, serving on the Board of Governors from 1979 to 1990, DiOrio invested in a number of businesses, serving as a partner in Greate Bay Country Club and The Brighton Casino Hotel from 1972 to 1981. 

DiOrio served as a Somers Point city councilman for 18 years, serving as president for 12 years.  He was a member of the Somers Point Kiwanis Club from 1950, serving as president in 1955.

He was the advisor, director and chairman of various Somers Point programs, including Memorial Day Services, Children’s Christmas parties, Halloween parades and parties and the Somers Point Boys Club.  He received the Distinguished Citizen of the Decade Award from the City of Somers Point from 1970 to 1980.

DiOrio is survived by four children, F. Joseph DiOrio, Dennis DiOrio, Terri DiOrio and Janet DiOrio Galante and her husband Tony, and four grandchildren, Joseph Galante, Michael Galante, Michael DiOrio and Jamie DiOrio.

An avid golfer, he was a member of Atlantic City Country Club for 50 years and Greate Bay Country Club since 1951. He was known for a handicap as low as five, and had the distinction of shooting eight career Holes in One.

“He loved to play golf,” said Galante.

DiOrio was an avid sports fan, supporting both Ocean City and Mainland teams and was a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia Eagles since 1960. He was a New York Yankees fan since 1930, and took his wife to see the Yankees play on their honeymoon.

In his retirement, his passion was to watch a bank of seven televisions in his living room tuned to his favorite games so he could keep track of all of them simultaneously. 

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