A leading advocate for pancreatic cancer research who was well known in Ridgewood for park restoration efforts and youth sports involvement passed away at age 65, according to his obituary.
Joseph Grasso died on Aug. 31, his obituary stated. Grasso had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2008 and was hospitalized in July with a "mysterious bug," he wrote in an e-mail to Patch a month prior to his passing.
Grasso was a well-accomplished, passionate advocate for pancreatic cancer research. He was active with New Jersey Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) and organized charity baseball games with The Newark Bears.
When Patch spoke with Grasso in Aug. 2010, he was in good spirits despite having been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. He had been told he'd likely have less than six months to live.
"Some might just put their head on the pillow and give up, but that's not me," he said. "I can't see a price not paying to be able to be engaged in life and to be able to be productive."
More recently, Grasso authored a children's book with proceeds benefiting pancreatic cancer research and the Ridgewod Public Library's Bolger Heritage Center.
"Mr. Lester's Farm" chronicled the transformation from an agrarian society to the more modern Ridgewood we see today, documenting the life of farmer Andrew Lester, whom The Stable is named for.
Grasso raised more than $9,000 on his Kickstarter project.
An accomplished business man, Grasso founded and ran Ridgewood-based marketing company The Opus Group, as well as Exhibition Arts, a company involved in trade show exhibit design and construction. He was most recently the creative director at Florida-based Tambourine advertising agency.
His obituary noted Grasso volunteered his time as the president of the Ridgewood Youth Council, worked on the Ridgewood Fourth of July Committee, was active in the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce and helped restore Memorial Park at Van Neste Square.
Grasso was among the comparatively few advocates for pancreatic cancer research.
"Pancreatic cancer patients just aren't living long enough to advocate," Grasso told Patch in 2010. "So few people survive. Unlike breast cancer or AIDS where there are thousands of people who can march in the street, advocate, blog, and legislate in some cases, we don't have as large or as loud a voice. That's why it's so vital that more funding for research be allotted."
He is survived by his mother, Marie Grasso; his wife, Wendy Grasso; his sister, Anne Bizzarro-Pierro and husband Robert Pierro; his daughters, Janine Grasso-Hochegger, Jackie Grasso-Patel, Jamie Grasso-Carius and their husbands Juergen, Nand and Michael; and his grandchildren, Cole, Matthew, Lauren, Marcus, Ethan and Anna. He was predeceased by his father, Emidio "Jerry" Grasso.
A memorial service was held on Sept. 8 at Our Lady Mt. Carmel Catholic Church.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Help is at Hand, a non-profit Grasso set up shortly before his death, his obituary said. Checks can be sent to 78 East Passaic Street, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662.