I first met Joe Bianculli on July 4th 1997. It was a scalding hot summer afternoon at Joe’s do-not-miss-cookout at his home in Milton, Massachusetts.
It was an intimidating day.
The youngest of Joe’s three sons, Matt, and I were dating sisters. Matt and I had met months prior and this was my first introduction to the Bianculli family (and by “family” I mean more like the Gambinos or the Sopranos). As I rolled up on this magnanimous Italian summer feast, I quickly understood this was a hard core family, lead by “Bubba”, a term his future grandchildren would deem.
A product of the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, Joe is the middle child with two incredible sisters bookending him and keeping him in line. His Dad, Dominic, a Boston political legend and mother Martha (dubbed Charlotte Cha-Cha), the Bs were a tight knit brood. Joe grew up in the glory days of Beantown. And lucky for Joe, he courted and married his wife, Christine, of nearly 50 years, he has lead an admirable life.
As I walked in to that first cookout, I smelled the intensity of this man (ormaybe it was the onions and peppers?). Fire and passion.
Matt proudly grabbed me for in introduction.
“Dad, this is Fra….”
“Frankie Baby!” he yelled, cutting off Matt’s intro. A huge hug to follow at our first-minute-ever spent. Yup, I dig this dude.
“How you doing, pal? Good to meet ya! How about a Pearl? (a classic sausage/hot dog kind if thing he always had for his guests).
Deep breathe exhaled.
“Sounds great . Thank you, Mr Bianculli!”
“Joe! I’m Joe. Cut that Mr. Biancull bullsh#% out”.
Joe was a wild and energetic soul. Fun, loud, anxious and excited. I knew from Day 1, I liked this guy. Reminding me very much of my own Dad, Joe was a screwball.
Temper of a demon, heart of an angel.
And so, years wore on and I got more insights on Bubba. I heard a lot of stories. Stories of a guy that would road rage to the point of a Wild West gun fight. Stories of a guy that would chase a hockey referee in to the stands to challenge after a questionable off sides call. Stories of a madman I had never met.
Turns out, I never did get to meet “that” Joe Bianculli.
Not sure if that was good fortune or not? But I have had the pleasure to spend the last 20+ years around the only Joe I ever met; a complete softy. The Joe Bianculli I have spent my adult years around is a perfect husband, father and gentleman. And, not to keep you in suspense, he is freakin’ awesome.
You know when you see that person that you know will deliver the greatest hug ever? That’s Bubba.
Need a compliment when you aren’t feeling so great about life? Look, there’s Bubba.
Need a kick in the ass to get your world together? Also, Bubba.
As years passed, as they tend to do, Bubba became as much a friend to me as a father figure. We have waxed poetic about life and the world. We have tried to figure it out. And it always started and ended with a hug and a kiss. (Real men don’t mind giving a hug and a kiss; just so you know.)
My own father, very similar to Joe, fell ill a few years back. Joe never EVER failed to stay in touch with me through it all. He, and his beyond wonderful wife Chrissy, always reached out to me with love and prayers.
Joe made me feel like the 4th Bianculli son ( the really pale brother that could not skate or fight like the others).
Joe called me often. Simply to say hello. Ask about my Dad. Sent his prayers and love. Always. When my Dad did finally succumb to his cancer, Joe was one of the first in line to just offer his condolences and love.
Joe will always be an influence on me. He’s the best. I love this guy.