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Epilogue | Joseph Guggino

Tampa grocer Joseph Guggino, a decorated, wounded WWII veteran

TAMPA — If you look at Joseph Guggino's life from a distance, it may seem he had a lot of tough breaks.

He was a pretty brainy kid and spoke three languages. But then his father died when he was only 12 or 13, and he had to quit school to start working to support his family.

He eagerly enlisted in the Army in World War II and was awarded several medals before getting wounded by a grenade in the Philippines. After his recovery, he wanted to return to action, but the Army sent him home.

Mr. Guggino opened Joe's Grocery in Belmont Heights in Tampa in the 1950s, but the neighborhood went downhill. He was robbed at gunpoint several times, even beaten and locked in the store's bathroom. He finally gave up the store and found other work when he was in his 60s.

If he had any complaints, no one who knew Mr. Guggino ever heard them.

He had served his country, and been married for more than 50 years. He and his wife, Mary, raised three daughters. To him, that was a profoundly successful and rewarding life.

"The two things he was proudest of were being decorated and wounded combat veteran, and being a family man," said his daughter, Sandra Guggino.

Mr. Guggino died Feb. 15 of natural causes after a few weeks of declining health. He was 97.

Except for his war years, he lived his whole life in Tampa. He grew up in West Tampa, surrounded by immigrant families, and spoke English, Italian and Spanish from a young age.

It was in West Tampa that he met lifelong friend Sam Fraterrigo. They enlisted in the Army together, served side by side and were even wounded about the same time. For many years afterward, they met once a week at the Fourth of July Cafe to trade war stories and discuss local politics.

Mr. Guggino was in his 40s when he married. His daughters said he doted on them so much, even when they were adults, that it bordered on being embarrassing. Cathy Clifton recalled one rainy day when she was working downtown and her father drove to her workplace to give her an umbrella.

He absolutely insisted they get the education he never could.

"There was one thing he was adamant about, and that was that we all go to college," Clifton said, "There was never any question about it. We were all going to finish college."

In about 20 years at the grocery store, he never had an employee. He worked all day, six days a week, and was its butcher, cashier, stock boy, janitor and accountant.

A rash of robberies forced him to close in the 1970s. He took a job at Meals on Wheels, where he worked for another 10 years or so.

"He would have liked to have retired and just relaxed," Sandra Guggino said. "But that just wasn't in him at that time. He had three daughters to put though college."

Marty Clear can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

. Biography

Joseph Ippolito Guggino

Born: June 23, 1913.

Died: Feb. 15, 2011.

Survivors: Wife Mary; daughters Sandra Guggino, Angela Guggino and Cathy Clifton; sister Angie Rebowe; and two grandchildren.

Tampa grocer Joseph Guggino, a decorated, wounded WWII veteran 02/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:54pm]
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