Joseph Charles Fleming, Jr. a resident of Simsbury, for five and a half decades, passed away on December 31, 2018 at the age of 94, just a few hours shy of the New Year.
It had become holiday story-telling tradition for him to recount the Christmas he spent at the age of 19, in a South Pacific war zone where, at the time, he had wondered if he would see the New Year 1944 or birthday number 20. He openly marveled at each and every of the auspicious 74 birthdays and New Years that followed. He saw them as extraordinary gifts.
In 1964 Joe (as he liked to be called) moved to his beloved Simsbury with his wife Virginia Fleming, where, in a small white house at 6 Whitcomb Drive, they raised-over a period of over fifty years- 7 children and 2 of their grandchildren.
He is survived by his eldest son, Joseph C Fleming, III of Diamond Bar CA., a son James T Fleming, of Simsbury, his daughter Virginia (Ginger) Fleming-Little of Holland, MA. , son Matthew R. Fleming of Ivoryton, CT., a daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy) Fleming-Fisher of Costa Mesa, CA, and a son William Fleming, of Simsbury and Joseph’s grandson. Additionally he is survived, Scott Reed of Burlington, VT ( often referred to as the eighth child), and his granddaughter Julie Reed of Simsbury, CT (often referred to as the ninth child), whom was raised in that same family home, after the death of his daughter Kathleen.
Joe is furthermore survived by grandchildren: Chanelle, Joseph, Christopher, Aubrie, Michael, Andrew, Alexander, Courtney, Ryan, Mary, Amy, Paul, Thomas, Kathleen and great-grandchildren: David, Evy, Charlie, Caitlyn, Madison, Ethan and Angelo.
He was predeceased by Virginia his wife of 51 years, eldest child Kathleen Fleming- Reed, and one infant great-grandchild, Maya.
Joseph was born in New York City on September 23, 1924 to NYC policeman and first generation Italian-American. He spent his childhood with two brothers and sister in Brooklyn, where he attended both public and parochial schools and sang as a soprano and then eventually a tenor at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church.
When war broke out, he enlisted in the US Navy subsequently embarking for the South Pacific in July of 1943. During the war, Joseph served in the 88th Construction Battalion (Seabees), thus his SEABEE 88 license plates seen in Simsbury for decades. After serving in The Solomon Islands Campaign, Guadalcanal; Bougainville; Emirau; and Sterling Island in The Pacific Theater of WW II, he was providentially returned to The States for officer training and graduated class of 1947 from Holy Cross College in Worchester, MA. Joe continued his service in the US Navy reaching the rank of Ensign on the USS Schmidt in the North Atlantic until 1949.
With his bride and love of his life, Joseph eloped to California in 1950 where he continued his education at Northrup Aeronautical Institute in El Segundo CA and then returned to the East Coast after the birth of their first child. In the years that followed he worked at several companies, eventually settling at Combustion Engineering where he was employed from 1964 until his retirement in 1989.
It could be said that he was something of an enigma. Some knew him as a gifted artist because of his beautiful voice, some knew him as the master of all classic manly competences, some considered him a walking encyclopedia of American History, some knew him as a gentle lover of children, but all who had the honor of knowing him respected him for the strength and tenacity he demonstrated at all times up until his very last day. He was a measuring stick for all fathers.
Joseph was well known as a gifted tenor through his work with the St. Mary’s Choir and also as an actor/singer in many musical productions of the St. Mary’s Players and Simsbury Theater Group. His good looks and talent served him well in his best theatrical role as Lieutenant Cable in Roger’s and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. His musical talent was only one side of a multi-faceted man. Joseph was known as the go-to man in the neighborhood because of his vast knowledge and talent with all things mechanical. His garage on Whitcomb drive was a venerable consulting firm and hardware store for anyone in need of advice on everything from fruit tree pruning to carburetor repair, or any neighbor need of a tool, rare screw or bolt.
After the death of his beloved wife and while in retirement, Joseph spent his time working with the VFW in Simsbury where he served as Commander organizing many fundraisers. He was often seen for many years, selling red Poppies for the Veterans outside local markets and participating in the Annual Memorial Day parades on Hopmeadow Street. He was instrumental in the dedication of the Bataan Memorial Bridge in Simsbury, and the illumination of the American flag at the cemetery adjacent to Memorial Field, where will eternally rest. He did love this town and was much gladdened to spend his final days here.
He loved Italian food, making his famous mussel sauce, sailing his little boat Bluejay, bears and squirrels, and his family, but his greatest love was always his wife, Jinny.
Joseph was a humble and unpretentious man who embodied the attributes of the greatest generation: honor, fearlessness, independence in all things -much to the chagrin of those who disagreed with him. He was a Twain-like storyteller, and a man of the highest principles and ethics. Joseph C. Fleming was well loved and will be ineffably missed. In fact, we miss him already.
The family we receive friends on Sunday, January 6th from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Vincent Funeral Home, 880 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury. Funeral will be 9:15 at the funeral home followed by procession to St. Mary’s Church for a 10:00 AM Mass. Burial will follow in Simsbury Cemetery. Please visit Joseph’s “Book of Memories” at www.vincentfuneralhome.com for online tributes.