Joseph J. Califano

Joseph John Califano, 92, long time resident of West Seattle passed away on January 3, 2012. He was born November 7, 1919 to Italian-American parents Antonio and Maria Califano in Newark, New Jersey. After high school, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, and in 1937 he was sent to a Camp in Clinton New Jersey and then across country to Camp Cowiche in Yakima, Washington serving in the capacity of Senior Leader. It was there that he met and married his bride and love of 48 years, Rose Vetsch, in June of 1941. He loved the outdoors and the hard labor. His experience and knowledge of conservation and construction would carry him forward in life and he would always be a “CCC Boy” at heart. He and his wife were lifetime members of the National Association of the Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni.

In 1941 he and his wife moved to Seattle, where he went to work for the Boeing Company working on the B17 and in 1943 was part of the many dedicated war time employees who rolled out the 5,000th B-17 bomber. While at Boeing he enlisted in the Civil Air Patrol of the Office of Civilian Defense. In July of 1946 he was appointed to the Seattle Fire Department and spent most of his fire department duty as the engine driver at Engine Company 37 located on 35th Avenue SW in West Seattle. He was there so long that his department buddies, during that time, nicknamed him Mr. 37. Joe and his son, Tony, were featured along with two other firefighters and their sons in the April 7, 1968 edition of the Seattle Times as two generations of firefighters attending the firemen-trainee graduation ceremonies at the Seattle Center. Joe retired from the department on October 7, 1972.

Mr. Califano was preceded in death by his wife, Rose, in 1987. He is survived by his sister, Jean Vigliotti (Jim) of Roselle Park, New Jersey, brother, Jim Califano (Pauline) of Cape Corel, Florida; children, Tony (Darlene), Joreen, Joseph (Melissa); grandchildren, Darren (Leanne), Montessa, Aris, Mathew and David; great grandchildren, Chantel, Anthony, Lane, Morgan and a constellation of nieces and nephews in addition to a companion of 20 years, Linda Hauptman, now residing in Columbus, Georgia.

In lieu of flowers Joe’s family request that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association ( or Medic One.

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, February 4, 2:00-4:00 PM, The Hall at Fauntleroy, 9131 California Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98136

One Response to “Joseph J. Califano”

  • Mike Semenock says:

    Our condolences to my cousins and their families on the loss of their father and a good man. Uncle Joe was hard working, kind and always quick to smile. The greatest gift he gave my family was to introduce Rose’s sister Maggie to another Jersey CCC boy, his friend Harry. Maggie and Harry married and so began our family. We enjoyed so many family get-togethers on holidays. I’ll never forget the drive in the mountains we took in Uncle Joe’s tan Chevy. I must have been about four at the time and the gravel road seemed barely wide enough for the car. I was certain the car would slip off the road and plummet thousands of feet into the chasm below. How he did it, I’ll never know, but Uncle Joe got us back alive and well. I was certain he had nerves of steel and extraordinary driving skills. Uncle Joe was extraordinary in many ways and was a positive influence for many. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.

    Mike and Sally

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful. Disrespectful comments will not be published

When you have successfully submitted a comment, look in the space above to see your comment.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

If you do not see your comment, click HERE