Joseph Edward Kinsella, Sr. passed away in his sleep on Friday morning, December 8. He was 88. Born in his family home in Keansburg, N.J., Joe had friendships that lasted his lifetime, including pals with whom he crashed a wedding reception where he met a young beauty named Frances Grosso. Although she called him “a novelty that was going to wear off,” the couple were married 61 years, which is how this man with the map of Ireland on his face learned the beauty of Sunday family suppers flavored by his Italian immigrant in-laws’ homemade pasta and wine. Over the years, Joe got pretty good at pitching in to make both.
Joe had several small businesses around the Jersey Shore, most notably Merritt’s Lawn Mower Shop in Red Bank. Recently, Joe attended a 100th Anniversary celebration of St. Ann’s grammar school with his children who matriculated with the children of his own classmates. There, the youngest brother of a classmate reminded Joe of his leadership in bringing a soccer league to the children of Keansburg, even though his own had grown beyond its age limit. He lived his life with a “do onto others” kindness that showed itself in things like building that soccer field, helping a random stranger, or making a point to visit sick friends in the hospital—always without making a fuss. Upon becoming his brother Tommy’s guardian, Joe advocated for his kin and others with mental disabilities in New Jersey. Perhaps it was his Keansburg boardwalk upbringing—his father owned miniature trains there—but Joe loved a good party and games of all kinds. He especially enjoyed playing cards, whether late-night holiday Hearts sessions with his brothers-in-law or marathon rounds of Casino with his grandchildren during summers spent on Long Beach Island.
Just days before his passing, Joe visited with his sole surviving sibling Bill, in from Denver for a gathering of the extended Kinsella clan. In addition to his wife, Fran, Joe is survived by his children: Lucinda Ann and her husband John Ivanoff; Joseph Edward, Jr. and his wife Susan Ciferni Kinsella; Patrick James; Claire Teresa and her husband Erik Holtje; and Bridget Mary and her husband Liam Tiernan. His grandchildren, who remember their charismatic Poppop well, are Melissa, Thomas and Douglas Ivanoff, and Joseph, Rebecca, Nicholas and Michael Kinsella. He recently welcomed a full-grown granddaughter, Fiona Tiernan, and—with Patricks’ foray into horseracing—a few furry additions to his gang (although he appreciated them in different ways).
Arguably, the biggest Chicago Cub fan born in New Jersey, anyone who knew him saw this post-World-Series year as Joe Kinsella’s personal victory lap. Joe was an Air Force veteran and, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Stop Soldier Suicide (www.stopsoldiersuicide.org), a charity founded by his grandnephew, Brian Kinsella. His life will be celebrated at a funeral mass at 9 a.m. at the All Saints Chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, 30 Schoolhouse Road in Manchester Township on Saturday, December 16.
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