WATERTOWN, NY — John Joseph Derrigo, Jr., 84, of 262 Bellew Ave., Watertown, passed away Thursday, March 21, 2019, at home after being stricken by a heart attack.
John was born on July 29, 1934, in Watertown, NY. a son of Sara Massena Derrigo and John Joseph Derrigo Sr. of Watertown. John Sr. was born in Calabria, Italy on Aug. 20, 1899, and emigrated to the United States in 1921. John Jr. graduated from Watertown High School in 1952. Following graduation, he served in the Army National Guard for three years.
He married the love of his life, Mary Jane Manigold on Nov. 14, 1954, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. The couple would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this November.
At the age of 11, John began his life long career working at his father’s first fruit stand in 1943 in Henderson Harbor. That same year, the business was moved to Bellew Ave. in Watertown. After school, John and his siblings would get wagons full of fresh vegetables from the family garden, set off across the Arsenal Street Bridge and peddle the produce throughout the city. In 1964, John took over operation of the family business when his father retired. The family legacy continued when John Jr.’s son Stephen “Bubba” Derrigo became the third generation to work at Derrigo’s Fruit Stand. Bubba considered it a privilege to work alongside his father and grandfather. John Jr. and his wife Mary Jane and Bubba ran the business together until 1981 when Bubba took over and expanded to Alexandra Bay. It became a family tradition to help at Derrigo’s Fruit Stand. John Jr. also owned and operated Pa Derrigo’s Cheese Store in the Globe Mini Mall.
In 2006, he went into Home Depot to purchase a rose bush and ended up leaving that day with a job. He worked there right up until he passed. He became a well-liked and respected “fixture” at Home Depot and was recognized with numerous awards.
John Jr. waged and won a 38-year battle against cancer with the love, support and help of family, friends and Roswell Cancer Treatment Center in Buffalo.
He was a life member of the Watertown Elks Lodge #496, past president and lifetime member of The Italian American Club, a member of the Brownville American Legion and Communicant of St. Anthony’s Church where he sang in the choir for many years.
John Jr. enjoyed hunting, fishing and golfing. He was an excellent cook whose salad dressing was legendary. He was best known as a dapper dresser. He achieved his style with the help and love of his wife Mary Jane who worked in the local fashion industry for 62 years.
John Jr. was an amateur historian, recounting tales of Watertown in the mid-20th century. He loved spending time at Joe’s Tavern where he regaled people with story after story. He and his wife were avid Syracuse sports fans.
John Jr. lived life to the fullest. That joy spread in countless ways throughout his life. He was beloved by his family and friends. And, he was a friend to all he met.
Among his survivors are his beloved wife, Mary Jane Manigold Derrigo, his daughter, Theresa D. Delaney, Watertown, two sons and a daughter-in-law, John J. Derrigo III, Syracuse, Stephen “Bubba” and Marie Derrigo, Alexandria Bay. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Lauren Marie (Mark) Perrino, Atlanta, Georgia, Joel (Julie) Derrigo, Atlanta, GA, Tyler J. Delaney and his companion, Meghan Brower, Copenhagen, Alexis J. Derrigo and her companion, Sean Catlin, Alexandria Bay, three great-grandchildren, Brantly M. Derrigo, Mariano Joseph Perrino and Giorgio Peter Perrino and a great-grandchild due in August. Also surviving are three brothers and their wives, Rocco and Jean Derrigo, Watertown, Michael and Nora Derrigo, Plattsburgh, Joseph and Marcia Derrigo, Ogdensburg, three sisters and two brothers-in-law, Angelina Marra, Watertown, Laurita and Sam Felice, Watertown, Lucy and Philip Priolo, Watertown as well as his many nieces and nephews near and dear to his heart.
Besides his parents, he was predeceased by a son-in-law, Theodore E. “Ted” Delaney, Jr., who passed March 22, 2018, and three brothers, Frank (Joanne), Peter (Carol) and Domenic Derrigo, and brother-in-law, Nino Marra.
Calling hours will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Hart and Bruce Funeral Home, 117 N. Massey St., Watertown.
A prayer service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 27, at the funeral home followed by an 11 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Anthony’s Church with Rev. Christopher Looby, pastor and Rev. Donald Robinson concelebrating. Burial will follow in Glenwood Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or to Roswell Cancer Treatment Center in Buffalo.
Online condolences can be made at www.hartandbrucefh.com.