Service will be held Saturday morning at St. Anthony's
A funeral service will be held Saturday for former Valley East city councillor Joe Niceforo, 75, who passed away March 2 after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Niceforo was a former police officer, manager at Rainbow Concrete and a city councillor in Valley East for more than 20 years, before it was amalgamated into Greater Sudbury in 2001.
He leaves behind two daughters, Natalie and Kimberly, and a son, Joey, a renowned tenor with Destino, a group that mixes popular music and opera in their songs. Niceforo also had three grandaughters, Meadow-Ann Scott, Brooke-Anna Scott and Bella-Ange Pharand.
In an interview Thursday, Joey said his dad was a humorous, patient and loving father, who taught his children never to care what other people think.
For example, he once suggested having planes fly over the Valley to spray pesticides to get rid of mosquitoes. Joey says his dad received lots of criticism for the environmentally questionable plan.
“But he didn't care what anybody thought,” the younger Niceforo said. “And he taught us to be the same way.”
He was also known as “Stop Sign Joe” for his continual efforts to put stop signs at intersections all over the Valley, and for campaigning to stop the use of “Xmas” in place of “Christmas.”
Away from the political arena, Joey said his father took him hunting, fishing — and even tried to get him to play hockey.
“But I was awful at it — it was like I had four left feet. But he kept encouraging me anyway.”
Joey says he can scarcely remember his father getting angry about anything. He relates one time when he accidentally put a car in gear, launching it into a building while trying to listen to a Blue Jays baseball game on the radio. Despite damaging the car and the building, Joey says his dad was just relieved no one was hurt.
“I thought my dad was going to kill me, but he just gave me a big hug,” Joey said.
Niceforo was interviewed for a My Car feature in Northern Life in 2009, posing beside his 1983 Oldsmobile Tornado, a car he said he was keeping in good condition to give to Joey. But father and son had different views on the big, gass-guzzling Tornado, which was later sold.
“I remember reading that, and God bless him, he wanted me to have it, and I was praying he wouldn't give it to me,” Joey laughs. “He loved that car so much.”
Even when it became clear that he was dying, Joey said his father kept his sense of humour. Before he lapsed into a coma late last week, he asked one of his nurses if he could have a kiss on the cheek.
“So the nurse kissed him, and he said, 'You know, I'm a little numb. I didn't feel that one. Could I have another?' ”
It was the last words he heard his father speak. He lapsed into a coma a short time later, and passed away Sunday. Joey said the family has been comforted by the outpouring of affection by so many in the community, even though his father had been out of the public eye for such a long time.
“He thought he had been forgotten, but now we know he wasn't.”
On his Facebook page, Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis said Niceforo was the longest-serving councillor in Valley East, describing him as his “mentor.”
Niceforo passed away at Maison Vale Hospice after a long battle with COPD, a disease in which suffers have increasing difficulty breathing. Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath that gets worse over time.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Support Group in Sudbury and to Maison Vale Hospice. A service in memory of Niceforo will be held Saturday at St. Anthony's Church at 10 a.m.