To those who knew Joseph Belilos, he was a man of great devotion to God, his country, family, friends and the New York Yankees.
The Hewlett resident Belilos died on Sept. 24 from natural causes at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. He was 95.
Born on Jan. 17, 1925, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn as the seventh of nine children to Sephardic Jewish immigrants, Eli and Rena. He grew up in a three-bedroom brownstone in Bensonhurst down the street from the Sephardic synagogue where Eli served as the cantor.
With the news of the atrocities against Jewish people in Europe, Belilos was eager to join his older brother Abe in service. At age 17, he tried to enlist in the army, but was turned away and forced to wait until his 18th birthday to join. At age 19, a Private First Class in the infantry, he landed on the beaches of Normandy in D-Day and helped to liberate France.
Belilos met his wife of 64 years, Joan, in Miami while waiting in traffic for a raised drawbridge to close. They were married on June 13, 1956, in Miami and settled in Far Rockaway in 1961. In the early 1980s, they moved to Hewlett. Together they raised three children, Renee, Elise and Elliot. He worked as a salesman as he sold to retail electronics until his retirement in the early 1990s.
Elliot said that his father was a hard-worker who always put his family first. “He was an entrepreneur, a salesman and an honest businessman,” he said. “Growing up through the Great Depression taught him the value of frugality, but he was generous to a fault, often making personal sacrifices so his children would be afforded the best education possible and ensuring that no loved one would ever go hungry.”
Renee Shaw described her father as a kind-hearted person. “He was generous, honest, loving, hard working, soft spoken, devout to his Jewish faith and a passionate family man,” she said.” He was one tough guy from the greatest generation as he survived cancer twice. His last spoken words to me were, “I like to see your smile and I love you babe.”
Elliot added that his father never missed a Yankees game, from seeing Mickey Mantle finish his career and Reggie Jackson win the 1977 World Series to listening to the team win one more time just before he passed. He was seldom seen without his Yankees cap on. But perhaps his greatest joy came when he watched his grandchildren playing the game he grew up loving. A two-time cancer survivor, he held onto life long enough to see his daughter, Elise, marry her college sweetheart in a small outdoor ceremony in the park near her home.
Belilos is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joan, his daughter Renee Shaw, and her significant other, Robert Wilson; daughter Dr. Elise Belilos and her husband, Donnie Braunstein, son Elliot and his wife, Kathi Reidy; six grandchildren, Kali Saxton-Shaw and her husband Dan Saxton, Jeannine Shaw and her husband Brett Reeder, Alayna Shaw, Matthew Rivera, Ellie Belilos, Andy Belilos; Joe’s great grandson, Cooper Joseph Saxton; as well as loving neighbors he considered family, Bill and Lisa Dubin and their daughter Maya.
Belilos was buried at Mount Golda Cemetery in Huntington on Sept. 27. In lieu of gifts, the family is asking for donations to the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead.
“His great grandson Cooper Joseph has his namesake and every family member is lucky enough to have known him and carry on with his essence,” Shaw added. “Rest in peace dad.”