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Joseph C. Guagliardo | 1923-2011

Dairy operator Joseph Guagliardo dealt in human kindness

PARKLAND ESTATES — When he was a boy, Joseph Guagliardo would get up early, make the long trek from his home on 40th Street out to the family farm in Brandon and milk cows. Then he'd come back to Tampa and deliver milk to customers around town. In the early days, he did all that in a horse and buggy.

After he was done with his deliveries, he went off to school.

If it was a hard life, he didn't seem to know it.

"I don't think I ever met anybody who enjoyed life as much as he did," said his son, Nelson Guagliardo. "To him, every day was a great day. Until about a year ago, he went to work at the dairy every day."

In that time, Mr. Guagliardo had helped build Sunny Florida Dairy from the backyard operation that his parents started in 1911 into the largest family-owned dairy in Florida with locations around the state. The Guagliardo family still runs the 100-year-old business.

He died at home on April 17 from congestive heart failure. His family surrounded his bed and held his hands. He was 87.

His parents were Sicilian immigrants who came to Tampa in 1904. They worked as cigar rollers. In 1911, as their family grew, they bought two cows and supplemented their income by selling milk to neighbors.

By the 1920s, the family business had grown to include a 2,000-acre farm in Brandon, in addition to the processing plant that still stands on the Guagliardo family's original homestead on 40th Street in Tampa.

Mr. Guagliardo's innate charm made him a natural salesman, and he ended up overseeing sales and customer service.

"If there was ever a problem, if a customer was upset, he'd meet with them and he had a way of smoothing it over," said his nephew, Andrew Cappello.

In 1945, he attended a patriotically themed dance. It was there that he met a beautiful 17-year-old girl named Lily Favata.

"My father was quite the man about town," Nelson Guagliardo said. "But my mother said, 'Joe, it's either them or me.' "

Mr. Guagliardo didn't have much trouble giving up other girls. He married Lily a year later. His father invited the dairy's customers to the wedding; about 3,000 people attended.

Joseph and Lily Guagliardo built a home in Parkland Estates in 1950 and lived there the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, the Guagliardo clan continued to grow. Much of the extended family still lives near the original family homestead. Several others live in Parkland Estates and others on what was once the family farm in Brandon. (Channel 8 news anchor Gayle Guyardo is Mr. Guagliardo's niece. She changed the spelling of her name for career purposes, the family said.)

"He taught his children and his grandchildren the importance of family," his son said. "We always wanted to stay within walking distance of each other, and that's pretty much what we ended up doing."

There was only one dark period of Mr. Guagliardo's life, his son said. That was when his wife, Lily, died suddenly in 1993.

After Mr. Guagliardo's death, the family went though his possessions. They found something he had jotted on a scrap of paper in 1995, two years after his wife had died. It read simply "Lily, my love, my life, my everything."

Besides his son Nelson, Mr. Guagliardo is survived by his daughters Sharon Lumia, Laureen Allen and Brenda Cusack; his sister Vivian Cappello; his brother Nick Guagliardo (and wife, Sandra); eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently died. Reach him at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Dairy operator Joseph Guagliardo dealt in human kindness 04/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 4:30am]
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