Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Joseph “Joe” Viventi, it is easy to see that he was the sort of person who never met a stranger. He was social and outgoing, and he could spend hours talking about 20th century physics and quantum physics. Joe cherished his family and friends, and his love for his wife, son, and grandchildren ran deep. He was a bit of a free spirit who was always up for an adventure until the end of his days. Joe would do anything for anyone, even if it meant giving the shirt off his back. Dearly loved, he will be forever missed.
During the decade when televisions were becoming part of our homes, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe became household names, and Elvis Presley ushered in rock ’n roll, Romeo J. and Santina (Borgia) Viventi were blessed with the birth of the baby boy they named Joseph Anthony on December 15, 1952, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The youngest of four, he joined his sisters, Francis, Judith, Mary, in the family home at 15 Maynard, NW. Joe was adored by his sisters, and as the only boy he was the apple of his father’s eye. His father worked for General Motors while his mother was a homemaker. Joe was only two years younger than his sister, Mary, and the two were best friends who did everything together like playing football, building forts and rafts, and earning money picking fruits for Versluis Family Farms. Joe’s mother’s two sisters, Teresa and Erminia Borgia, were unmarried, and as was tradition they lived with Joe and his family. They showered Joe with love throughout Joe's life and were devoted to him up to the very end. All the extended family came over to their house for events and parties called the “three acre parties.”
In many ways Joe was a typical young boy of his generation. He was kind, adorable, and had no interest in being disrespectful. Joe took tennis lesson in East Grand Rapids, and he became very good at it. He was also liked math and science, was mechanically minded, and was into building with erector sets. For kindergarten, Joe attended Cummings School, Holy Spirit School for first through eighth grades, although he did skip sixth grade, and he graduated from West Catholic High in 1970. Joe also played tennis and was on the wrestling team. Later in life, Joe coached girls tennis. Also of significance during this time was his introduction to a young woman named Nancy Lee. They met while out at the beach with friends, and the second time they met Joe remembered to get her number. Joe and Nancy began dating, attended each other’s senior prom, and went on other dates, but their relationship ended when she moved to California and he went to college at Ferris State University. There, Joe focused on metallurgy and engineering with a teacher’s certificate.
After graduation, Joe was eager for all that life had in store. He took a job teaching in Iowa where he began a relationship with a woman, Penny Whitaker, and together they had a son, Cory. Joe returned to Grand Rapids where he taught welding at Grand Rapids Junior College and also worked for Alloyed Tech, welding parts for F-16. He was one of very few who earned that certification, and he also worked for family at Borgia Engineering. Joe was proud of his work on the gates to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
Around 1990, Joe’s mother’s health began declining. Since Joe didn’t have much to do with Cory at that point, she located him and paid to have him come for a visit as it was important to her to get to know her grandson. Cory was welcomed into a big Italian family and felt like he fit right away. Although their relationship ebbed and flowed over the years, they became inseparable once both Joe and Cory were willing to set their hard feelings aside. Cory was excited for his kids to know their grandfather, and it has been said that Joe was born to be a good grandpa. He was amazing with kids, and he always made the time to spend together. During the summer of 2005, Joe became reacquainted with Nancy, and they were soul mates who reconnected instantaneously. They were married on August 21, 2005, and it was Nancy’s daughter who was instrumental in reuniting Joe and Cory.
Throughout his life Joe was a man of many interests. There was nothing he couldn’t fix including his 1948 Willy Jeep that he completely rebuilt two times. Joe’s 1964 Harley Davidson Panhead motorcycle was another one of his prized possessions. He infected Cory with the Jeep bug, and Cory has said that Joe only needed to hear a bike or Jeep coming down the road in order to diagnose what was wrong with it and how to fix it. He was very passionate about economics, politics, and 20th Century physics and quantum physics. Joe was very involved in the formation of a motorcycle group, West Side Motorcycle Association, in 1982. The members were his brothers as they were very tight. As someone who was very inquisitive and loved figuring things out, Joe had a deep spirituality but also knew that it was good to question things. He always wanted to know the “why” behind everything. Joe loved reading as it was often a way to answer his questions and helped him come up with new things. He liked the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan as well as thin crust cheese pizza from Peppino’s Pizza, raspberry iced tea or ginger ale, and Payday candy bars.
Loving, caring, and selfless are just a few of the words that describe the extraordinary man that Joseph “Joe” Viventi was. He was precise, even a bit of a perfectionist at times, especially when it came to fixing things. Joe was so proud to have been able to teach at a high school level, but it was being with his loved ones that brought him his greatest joy. Although he will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever cherish.
VIVENTI – Joseph “Joe” Viventi age 65, of Grand Rapids, passed away on October 29, 2018. He was preceded in death by his parents, Romeo and Santina Viventi. Joe is survived by his loving wife, Nancy; children, Cory (Julie) Whitaker, Tyler Brown and Kylee (Lance) Purucker; grandchildren, Jaren, Reagan, Connor, Cady, Lilah, and Kole; and sisters, Francis Heinemann, Judith Sharpe and Mary (Kate Noone) Viventi. Also surviving are his special aunties, Erminia and Tressa Borgia; sister-in-law, Cheryl Johnson; brother-in-law, Richard Johnson; many Borgia and Sciamanna cousins; many nieces and nephews, Bobby and Charlie Heinemann, Nichole Roman-Bhatty and Joe Sharpe; and his brothers of the West Side Motorcycle Association. Joe’s family will gather with family and friends from 11 AM until 2 PM, with a time of sharing memories at 1 PM, on Friday November 2, 2018 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Joe’s memory may be made to DeVos Children’s Hospital. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Joe’s lifestory, submit a memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook.