James M. Giosa was still in high school when he decided he wanted to be a funeral director. He had relatives in the business in Philadelphia, and he was also influenced when he helped his high school sweetheart as she struggled with the death of her teenage brother.
Mr. Giosa was "thoughtful and compassionate," said his wife, Ritamarie, whose brother died when he was 15. She fell in love after their first kiss, knowing then that he "absolutely" was the one for her.
On Friday, April 21, Mr. Giosa, 67, of Berlin Township, died after a short battle with cancer. He died in his wife's arms at Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice in Voorhees.
Until falling ill, he was active with hobbies and community service, and in running Giosa Funeral Home in West Berlin, where he and his wife were owners.
He treated his clients as if they were part of his family, said his wife, a nurse who helps prepare for services. So many families wrote him letters of appreciation, she said, that he needed a second scrapbook for them.
Mr. Giosa met Ritamarie Tevis at Camden Catholic High School while she was performing in the school musical, Carousel. He was part of the stage crew, and she sang and danced in the ensemble. They graduated in 1968 and married in 1971.
In 1973, Mr. Giosa graduated magna cum laude from American Academy McAllister Institute of mortuary science in New York. He interned and worked nine years as a director with the Leonard Funeral Homes in Camden before the couple opened Giosa Funeral Home in 1981.
They did not have the money to buy another business, so they started their own "from scratch," Ritamarie Giosa said. Those were lean years, she said.
The couple would take their four children camping, and while Mr. Giosa loved fishing and cooking, he was not as fond of camping, she said.
If another funeral director needed help, she joked, her husband would prefer to skip a night in the woods to earn extra money.
"He was a nice gentleman," said friend Albert Mathis of Mathis Funeral Home in Glassboro. "We helped each other out. Whatever needed to be done, he was always willing to do it."
That was true of his community service as well.
Mr. Giosa served on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel school board for 15 years and the Berlin Township school board for 12 years. He also was a member of the Berlin Township Planning Board, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and a member of the West Jersey Funeral Directors Association.
He was an Eagles and Phillies fan, and loved supporting his children and grandchildren as they played baseball and soccer or performed dance and music.
Mr. Giosa loved theater. "There was not a play that he did not see," his wife said, noting that they often attended productions in New York and Philadelphia. He played guitar and accordion as a child, his wife said. He was also was a lector and choir member at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Berlin.
"He had a fabulous voice. It was booming," she said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Giosa is survived by sons Galen, Matthew, and Bradford, daughter Abigail Trost, and five grandchildren.
There will be a viewing from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, and 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday, April 27, at St. Simon Stock Parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 178 W. White Horse Pike, Berlin. A concelebrated Funeral Mass will follow at 11:30 a.m. Interment will be at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.
Donations may be made to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Regional School, 1 Cedar Ave., Berlin, N.J. 08009.