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November 18, 2013

Joe Giuffrida, 'a Lawrence City Hall legend' dies at 89

LAWRENCE — Sunday evening, Joe Giuffrida settled into his favorite chair in his den to watch some football.

The great-grandfather fell asleep and while surrounded by his family, Giuffrida then painlessly faded away.

“It was the most peaceful death. It was beautiful,” said Patricia Mariano, one of Giuffrida’s two daughters.

Giuffrida, a proud Lawrencian, Italian American, Lawrence City Hall legend and by all accounts, revered gentleman, died Sunday night at age 89. The devout Catholic leaves behind a legacy of honesty, fairness and a tremendous work ethic that won the respect of nine mayors, hundreds of city councilors, staffers and taxpayers.

He said he worked for nine mayors. But former Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan remarked, “Nine mayors worked for Joe.”

Chief city assessor for 36 years, Giuffrida retired in 2008 at age 83 and long criticized Mariano for “making him retire,” she said.

“He held it against me for the longest time. He’d say, ‘Because of you, I retired,’ ” Mariano tearfully recalled yesterday. “He was always looking for a part-time job. He just liked to be with people.”

A year ago, Giuffrida lost his wife of 67 years. Since then, Mariano said her father struggled with both dementia and diabetes. He required around the clock care, but the family kept their promise to him and let him live in his own home until the very last day.

Giuffrida closely watched the Nov. 5 city election, where Mariano, retired principal of Lawrence’s Leahy School, won a seat on the school committee.

On Nov. 8, he celebrated his 89th birthday, blowing out the candles on his cake, Mariano said.

About a week ago, Giuffrida really started declining, refusing to eat and not wanting to take his medication, she said.

“He really failed quickly ... It was like he just had it,” Mariano said.

The son of Italian immigrants, Giuffrida grew up on Orchard Street. He worked as a H.P. Hood truck driver and court officer before becoming the city’s chief tax man.

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