Korean War veteran, longtime Valley Stream VFW commander dies at 84

Joe Marando at last year’s Memorial Day parade.
Joe Marando at last year’s Memorial Day parade.
Courtesy Maurice Santos

Joseph Marando Jr., longtime commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1790 in Valley Stream, died of lymphoma on Oct. 30. He was 84.

Throughout his life, according to his friends and family, Marando didn’t say the word goodbye — not even when they visited him at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hours before his death.

“He never said goodbye [or] see you later,” his son-in-law, Maurice Santos said. “He always said, ‘See you in a minute.’”

Marando was born in Coney Island in January 1933. He attended the Sewanhaka Central High School District in Floral Park and later moved to Valley Stream. He fought in the Korean War in the 1950s, and when he came home, he joined VFW Post No. 1790 in Valley Stream.

His friends at the VFW described him as a hard worker and caring friend. Every night, his friend George Fox said, his house would be open for visitors, and every day he would sit at his desk at the VFW, surrounded by pictures he’d painted, photos of his family and newspaper clippings, playing a scratch-off game.

“Anytime I was at home and had nothing to do, I’d get in my car and come over here because I knew he’d be sitting in that chair,” said Fox, a Vietnam War veteran.

Marando served as commander of the VFW 15 times since the 1960s, and had held the position since 2010. During his most recent term, he oversaw renovations of the post and kept it immaculate, his friends say.

“This was really his baby,” Pete Yarmel, an Iraq War veteran, said of the building on Merrick Road. “Like he has tons of grandkids and great-grandchildren, but this was one of them.”

He was also a caring friend, according to his neighbor Kathleen Neske, who said he was more like a family member. “He was the type of man who was always there for everybody,” she said. “He would do anything in the world for anybody. I wish every man was like him.”

Marando helped Yarmel when he returned from Iraq in 2006. “I wasn’t really holding down a job, and I started bartending here,” Yarmel said, referring to the post. “He got me back on my feet again.”

Marando also volunteered at village functions, frequently hosting gatherings at the VFW.

About 20 years ago, he helped bring the Vietnam Moving Wall — a miniature version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. — which tours the country — to Valley Stream for several weeks. He also served on the committee to build a memorial at the Village Green for those who died in war, was a member of the Fire Department in the 1960s, and served as Superintendent of the Parks and Recreation Department from 1954 to 1987.

“Joe was part of the fabric of Valley Stream,” Mayor Ed Fare said in a statement. “He will be missed.”

Marando always had a sense of humor, his friends said. “He was one of the best guys I’ve ever known,” Yarmel recalled. “If you could just be with him five minutes, you’d be hysterical, and you’d think you knew him your whole life.”

Marando was pre-deceased by his wife, Bella. He is survived by his children, Mary Jo Dodson, Joseph (Lori), Tina Santos (Maurice), Benedetta Ginsberg (Robert) and William (Andrea); nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.