Remembering Joe Saviano

Joe Saviano died last weekend in New Milford Hospital. He was 65.

The first baby born in Norwalk Hospital in 1955 (January 2), he grew up in Westport. He was a champion pole vaulter at Staples High School, where he graduated from Staples High School in 1973.

Joe retired from the Westport Parks and Recreation Department, where he worked for most of his career. He was an avid fisherman, nature enthusiast and photographer. RTM member Andrew Colabella offers this remembrance.

Have you been to a game at an athletic field in town, and noticed the perfectly groomed grass? How about the perfectly edged gardens in town parks? Have you thought about the guy in the tractor who grooms the beach, leaving oddly satisfying smooth lines?

This is a dedication to just one of those talented former Parks & Rec maintanance employees.

At 5 a.m. — bright and early before sunrise, Joe Saviano inspects his tractor and beach rake. Sporting a town polo, a hat he obtained from a garden place or distributor/wholesaler, and a bandanna, he makes his way to Compo Beach.

Joe Saviano

Joe starts on South Beach by the barbecue grills. He slowly raises the benches with the bucket to move them out of the way, then rakes up the charcoal, ash and trash left by washed up waves and last night beach goers.

As the sun peeks over the horizon, it’s time for coffee at Elvira’s. If he’s lucky (which is every day), one of the usual beach walkers, runners or visitors brings him one.

His fans, friends, runners taking a break, even curious dogs, all stop to watch him ride by. If they’re lucky (which is always), Joe stops to say hi, ask how they are, gives the dog a pet, and offers a cigarette to the runners (as a joke).

It’s now past 7 a.m. Time to make a pass on east beach, as the town garbage truck makes its rounds picking up trash cans. Racing from can to can to beat the dust blowing off the beach rake, Joe stops to tell a corny dad joke. That turns into more jokes, and stories of when he was a champion pole vaulter.

Joe closes the cab door, raises the throttle, engages the beach rake, then makes his way to the jetty to loop back to the cannons until every inch of beach is raked — all before the swimmers and sun worshipers lay their towels, chairs and umbrellas out on the sand.

Next up are Old Mill and Burying Hill Beaches. Easy little strips, but a chance for Joe to practice and critique his operating skills, as he removes all the pebbles from the sand, and seaweed that washed up past the high tide line. Spotting a low spot in the beach, Joe shifts the high sand away from the wall to smooth out (all in one shot).

Joe Saviano, working at Compo Beach.

When the beaches are all groomed, Joe rides shotgun in truck 100, with Joey Arciola driving. The two Joes ride from job to job, working together. Joe Saviano chats away; Joe Arciola listens.

On the job site though, barely any words are spoken. The two work in silence and sync. If something is broken they just happen to have the right part, or a way to jerry-rig it. Most of the time, their innovative, makeshift part never needs replacing. 

That was a normal Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Joe.

For over 30 years Joe Saviano maintained town parks, beaches and field. He applied his natural green thumb, immunity to poison ivy and carpentry skills to building bleachers and split rail fences, and growing the greenest grass and most mesmerizing flower beds and gardens anywhere.

Joe was wise when it came to finances too. He always found the craziest deals. Joe’s truck was over 15 years old, but had little mileage. He never paid for a single repair on it!

Joe also never purchased cigarettes. He thought they were overpriced and filled with cancer. So he grew and rolled his own cigarettes, from tobacco he grew or purchased. It never made sense to me, just like his theories about extraterrestrial life, what was beyond our galaxy, and the purpose of some of the jobs we had to do at work.

Joe never sugarcoated anything. He was always straightforward and honest, and spoke his mind. Even if you didn’t agree, you respected his honesty and creative thinking.

When Joe wasn’t at work he could be found at Jr’s Hot Dog Stand, in the first chair. Congregating around him were big town names, high-ranking employees, retirees — all close friends shooting the breeze.

One of Joe Saviano’s favorite spots.

He cold also be found at his mother’s home, tending the garden and taking care of her. Or New Milford, where he settled down to raise his son Joseph Danial. And his vacation spot, his cabin in upstate New York — off-grid, where he fished and perfected his photography skills.

Joe left behind a legacy of talent, hard work, dedication, multiple friends and relationships. He also left his mark on the town, one that will be forever imitated but never duplicated.

Most importantly, Joe left behind his print on this earth.

So the next time you visit a town park, athletic or recreational field, or a beach, Joe’s mark can be found everywhere. Take time to notice the work of the bleachers he put together for you to sit on, the perfectly manicured pesticide-free cut grass with water-based stripes applied by careful eye, the boardwalk you walk on, the wooden guardrails you lean on waiting for your ride, or the barbecue grills you cook on to serve friends and family to as the sun sets.

Hardworking, talented people maintain those areas every day.

Joe was one of those people.

Joe, we’ll miss you!

Joe Saviano kept Loeffler Field — where the Staples High School boys and girls play — looking great.

18 responses to “Remembering Joe Saviano

  1. Tom Kashetta

    I was both shocked and saddened to hear about Joe. I first met him when I worked for the parks and Rec. one summer many years ago. He was such a great guy. I saw him not to long ago at Longshore and we had a nice talk. We always talked fishing which he knew a lot about. So sad. My heart felt condolences to his family……

  2. Sally Kellogg

    Oh dear, we’ve lost another long-time Westporter. I was born in the Norwalk Hospital in 1948…so maybe he was born in a new wing. Just sayin’.

  3. Chip Stephens. SHS 73

    Very sorry to see Joe’s passing. I played football with Joe and his cousin Johnny in Bedford junior high school and I remember watching Joel perform gymnastics on the rings back then, he was quite the athlete. I’ll miss seeing Joe on the beach every morning. Adios my friend.

  4. Sal Liccione

    Joe was such a great I use to love working parks and rec with we use to be all that trucks together I will miss and the town will miss a great town employee he was 1 of the best guys to work with I will miss a lot sal liccione

  5. Jay Tormey '66

    Was Joe”s father a Westport police office?

    • I’m Joe’s sister. Our Dad worked for the Post Office. My Uncle John was the policeman.

      • Pat, my condolences.

        And what a lovely tribute by Andrew.

      • michael Calise

        Pat is of course accurate but modest. There were four Saviano Brothers.
        Joe was a lifelong postman. John lived his career as a Westport Policeman. Bill was a tradesman / Plumber and Fred who was a Catholic Priest serving as a South American missionary. All four were dedicated contributors to the people they served. The original family homestead was at the corner of Riverside and Sylvan which is now a condominium project. When we use the label Native it takes on an even greater meaning when it speaks to lifetimes of service.’
        Rest in peace Joe you carried the ball well.

    • Cheryl Saviano Petrone

      Jay. My dad, John Saviano, was the policeman. Joe’s father, Joe, was my dad’s brother. Joe was my 1st cousin

  6. Michael Calise

    A very sad lost for Westport. Joe was truly a special Guy!

  7. Great tribute Andy, you nailed it. I don’t think people have any idea what it takes to have our beaches and fields look they they do. Joe was one of those guys that could do anything. And he always kept things interesting!! RIP Joe.

  8. Jeff Arciola

    RIP Joe. I had the pleasure of serving you many hot sausage egg and cheese sandwiches. You would always fill me in on what’s going on in the town.

  9. Sal liccione

    Joe was great to work 1 of the best I learned a lot from him We will miss a great public servant he tell cared for the town he work and he work hard plowing roads in the winter for a j Pena thanks joe for your service to Westport

  10. Rest in Peace Joe…well done Dan and Andrew…Thank you for a wonderful post and tribute to one of our native Westporters.

  11. Rhona Lieberson

    Michael Calise, thank you for all of your words with respect to Joe and his family members.
    Although I did not know Joe for the many years, I did know Joe over some years. He would wave and smile almost every morning from the cab of the large raking & cleaning equipment as he drove by my home raking/cleaning Old Mill Beach. He was an awesome, warm and friendly person and at times we even shared time over a cup of coffee at Elvira’s during his break!!!
    Have missed him since he retired and my condolences to his family for their loss.
    Rhona Lieberson

  12. This is so sad to read. I met Joe at Bedford Junior High School. He was one of the warmest, friendliest and kindest guys I ever knew. Always helping someone or smiling. I do recall him as a star football player and gymnast. The rings I think. I am so sorry to hear of his passing and so young. Condolences to his family. RIP Joe.

  13. Gretchen Shea

    I too was in Bedford with Joe, he was friends with all. Always one of my favorite people to talk to and to watch. I am glad he had an outside life with beauty and purpose.