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Joseph Italo Lunardi
August 13, 2023 - December 12, 2023
Joseph Italo Lunardi, a lifelong resident of Occidental died at home, surrounded by close family on Tuesday, December 12, 2023. He was 96.
Joe was born in Occidental on August 13, 1927 to Nancy and Italo Lunardi. Like many of the families in Occidental, he recalled picking hops with his family, gathering brush for Christmas wreaths, and doing whatever work he could find while still in grade school. Joe attended Meeker School in Occidental before attending Tomales High School in the 1940's. He enlisted in the Navy when he was a senior in 1945 and missed his graduation. He served in the Pacific Theatre. After the War, Joe returned to his hometown. Always industrious and quick to learn, Joe worked in various trades, as a logger for Chenoweth and Sturgeon's Mill. He also worked at Occidental Plumbing and Electrical before becoming an apprentice electrician in Local 551. He went to work at Fred Esselink Electric in Sebastopol and graduated as a journeyman in 1958, a source of great pride for a young man of humble beginnings.
He met his future wife, Doris Gonnella at Tomales High School. They married at St. Philip's Church in Occidental in 1949. Shortly thereafter, he and Doris purchased a small home on Harrison Grade Road where he raised his family and lived for the rest of his life.
Among his most noteworthy attributes was his belief in the importance of family and his community. He was devoted to both. He continuously added and remodeled the home to accommodate his growing family and to reflect his gradual success in business. In every sense, Joe embodied the 'can-do" spirit of his generation. If the community needed something done, Joe was often at the helm. He was a driving force behind the official formation of the Occidental Volunteer Fire Department in 1945. He served as fire chief for 20 years and he was on the Harmony School Board in the 1970's. In 1964 he made a leap of faith and became partner, and eventual owner of one of western Sonoma County's largest electrical contracting companies. Whenever you drove around Santa Rosa with Joe, he proudly pointed to some of the larger buildings he helped electrify, among them many of the buildings at the Santa Rosa Junior College, the old AT&T buildings and the Main Library at 4th and E. He was a dependable, well-respected contractor in the region. He is a member of the North Coast Builders Exchange Construction Hall of Fame. For a man who was born during the 1920's to humble parents, and grew up during the Depression, Joe was rightfully proud of his town and his family.
Joe was a friendly, sociable person who enjoyed the camaraderie of friends. An avid sportsman, he enjoyed fishing and hunting. As a child, he fished the local streams around Occidental, and as he grew older he fished the Russian River for steelhead. He hosted an annual, legendary fishing trip to his 'cabin' at Lake McCumber near Mount Lassen. Later, he purchased a small home near Eagle Lake. He hunted deer in northern California and our family ranch in Covelo. He traveled out of state to hunt with his sons and friends to Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, where he got his elk. He enjoyed diving for abalone and hunting mushrooms in his "Secret" spots.
Joe will always be remembered for his sense of responsibility, his work ethic, his compassion, and his irascible personality. If something was wrong or had been done incorrectly Joe, brow furrowed, was the first to let the world know. "Who's the jackass that built this?" he would grumble while looking directly at the person responsible. Another common remark was "God damn it, Doris…" which later became "God damn it, Johnny….". He enjoyed sports, especially baseball. He was a member of the Occidental "Fightin' Irish", American Legion team in the late 1940's. The team consisted of all Italians and one Irishman. Throughout his life he was a loyal Giants fan with a keen eye for athletic prowess.
But of greatest importance he was an example and an influence to countless young men, and eventually young women, who learned the value of service and duty to the community as members of the fire department and his electrical company. He set a standard for pride in workmanship that we all aspired to meet and in so doing, we enriched the community.
Joe was preceded in death by his wife Doris. He is survived by his children Jolene Corcoran (Pat), Ron Lunardi (Cathie) and Ray Lunardi (Tina) as well as grandchildren, Joe, Sean (Megan), and Cory (Jennifer) Corcoran; Rachel Parmeter (Cole), of Cazadero; Heather Lunardi (Jake) of Santa Rosa, Taylor Lunardi and Renee Lunardi (Nick) of Lakeport; six great-grandchildren, with two on the way and his niece Colleen Lunardi. Joe is also survived by his dear friend and companion Linda Marra and her children and grandchildren.
We would like to thank his caregivers Sai and George for their cheerful, tireless care of our father. They made Dad's final months at home a time of tranquility, comfort, and dignity.
There will be a visitation from 12 to 5 at Parent Sorensen in Sebastopol on Wednesday, December 20th, 2023, and a rosary will be said at 7:00 P.M. on Wednesday at St Philip's Catholic Church in Occidental. The funeral service will be on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. at St Philips.
Donations can be made to the Occidental Fire Department.