Joseph C. “Joe" Buzzetta, 86, of Saint James, NY, passed away on Sunday, January 15th, 2023, of dementia and Parkinson's disease.
He was born on December 30th, 1936, in Ozone Park, NewYork to John and Anna Buzzetta. His parents were from Italian immigrant families and he grew up with a wonderful close extended family and his maternal grandmother, Anna DiGennaro, was a second mother to Joe and his younger sister Johann.
When Joe was in his early teens, his family moved out to Centerport, New York around 1950, as his parents had purchased a partnership in a budding new Italian restaurant, the Bella Vista, a beautiful old Victorian once owned by the Whitney family. The Buzzetta family was "all hands-on deck" at the restaurant, making their home in its upstairs bedrooms for the first 5 or so years they were in business. Joe got a first-hand education there on how to run a family business from his father John, who was as great with people as he was meticulous in his record keeping and accounting.
The Bella Vista soon became a hot-spot for car clubs meetings and sports car rallies, which fueled Joe's love for automobiles. In addition to working at the restaurant, Joe got many car-relatedjobs around town and thus started his foray into the car business.
He attended and graduated from Huntington High School and met the love of his life, Valerie, on a blind date. The pair married soon after they met in 1957 as Joe was about to ship off to his Army post in Frankfurt, Germany. While Joe had to attend to his military duties during the week,weekends were often spent exploring Germany and bordering countries by car. Joe and Val's adventure really gained traction when they bought an Austin-Healey and started participating in club racing events and touring Europe. After seeing the successful results of his competitors driving the Porsche 356, they made the switch and thus began Joe’s racing legacy.After returning to the US at the end of his service, Joe’s love for racing continued.
As his amateur racing achievements started to add up, Joe gained national and international notoriety and his racing career really took off after getting contracted to race for the factory Porsche racing team in 1964. His success continued throughout his career with the brand, where he earned a reputation for being fast, earning consistent results, and always bringing the car home in one piece. Joe’s most notable success was winning the 1967 Nürburgring 1000KM race and multiple class victories at Daytona, Sebring and other races. He raced for Porsche through 1969.
While enjoying much success on the racetrack, Joe realized that his passion was in cars, and left the Bella Vista with his father’s blessing to start a repair shop called Competition Engineering with his racing mechanic and partner, Oscar Rubio. As he built his reputation on the racetrack, he also worked on growing the business and raising his family with Valerie. They welcomed three children during the 1960’s; Joseph Jr in 1963; James in 1966, and Nancy in 1968. Realizing that their growing family needed to put down some roots in the community, they built a beautiful home in Nissequogue in the early 70’s where they resided for many happy years before moving just one village over to Head of the Harbor, which they called home for the rest of their lives.
Due to his incredible success racing Porsches, he was able to get an audience with the franchise and the Porsche family itself granted him a retail point in Smithtown. Once he had a foothold, he worked hard to grow the tiny business and nurtured it into a successful enterprise, adding BMW, Mercedes, and Datsun (later Nissan) over the years.
During those formative years Joe also joined the Nissequogue Golf Club, which was very near and dear to him and he served on some early boards there to help guide and shape the foundling club.
In addition to his growing love for golf, Joe learned to fly and became an excellent pilot, he also grew to love Vermont and was an avid skier, and was equally interested in boats and enjoyed navigating the waters of the Northeast. Fitness was another of his interests, and not a day went by that he did not work out in some capacity.
Eventually, he and Oscar went their separate ways and the business continued growing,eventually spanning multiple locations for Mercedes and Sprinter Vans, BMW, Infiniti, and Subaru stores and employing approximately 550 Long Islanders on staff.
Joe treasured his time at the office, continuing to go in on a consistent basis up until his final couple of years. Even in his last months, he would often ask his children how business was, and expressed interest in getting back to the office as soon as he could. His family believes that the business was indeed the central passion that drove his life, and there was never a day that went by that he wasn’t thinking on it.
Joe was predeceased many years ago by his beloved younger sister Johann, his parents, and in 2015 by his beloved wife Valerie. He is survived by his sons Joseph Jr. (Hasmik) James (Laura) and daughter Nancy (Pablo); his beloved grandchildren; James, Daniel, Christopher, Valerie, Jennifer, Isabella, Joseph III, Pablo, and Lailla, and his great- grandchildren, Blair and James III.
In addition, he leaves behind many other beloved family, friends, and business associates. He was both beloved by, and loved, his team at the dealerships, and will be greatly missed but neverforgotten.
Remembering Joseph Buzzetta
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