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"He was a quiet, unassuming man. You could never figure out where he stood on any issue." said nobody, ever, about Joseph L. Makowski, who passed from this realm into the next on Saturday, May 13, 2023. He went about dying much like he lived: defiantly, passionately, and with a gleam in his eye that let everybody know he was in on the joke that is both life and death. He died in Bayonne, the place he so very much loved, raged at, laughed with, and lived for. He died on his terms, surrounded by the people he loved most, content that he had squeezed every last bit out of every emotion that one can hope to experience as a human being. To be fair, he probably would have liked to have squeezed out time for just one more V.O. & soda.
Joseph L. Makowski was born on August 20, 1945, to Joseph E. and Helen Makowski (nee: Okonski), the younger brother of Stephen E. Makowski and Robert Makowski. He graduated from Samuel A. Roberson Elementary School, Bayonne High School, and New Jersey City University, earning a B.A. degree in Sociology. He was a member of Alpha Kappa Delta and the National Sociology Honor Society.
His father, Joseph E. Makowski took public service seriously. Joseph E. Makowski was appointed to the City of Bayonne's Zoning Board in 1949 and served in that capacity until 1962, at which time he was elected by the residents of Bayonne's 2nd Ward to serve two terms as Councilman on the first Municipal Council under the Mayor/Council form of government.
Some fathers and sons bond by fishing, hunting, playing catch, or through hobbies. In this case, a very young and very impressionable Joseph L. Makowski accompanied his father to a great many meetings of various organizations, and, rest assured, the importance of the time his father spent in the service of others was not lost on Joseph L. Makowski. Public service was their bond.
Indeed, Joseph L. Makowski ("Joe" from here on out) carried on the public and civic service contributions of the Makowski family to the nth degree. Joe was elected to public office as Second Ward Councilman in 1982 and served three terms in that capacity before being elected as Councilman-At-Large in 1994, whereupon he was selected to serve as Council President by his peers. It was during Joe's time as a councilman that he honed his famously sharp wit and even sharper public speaking chops. But Joe didn't just serve the City of Bayonne as an elected official. That wouldn't have been the "Makowski Way." Much like his father, during his tenure as an elected official, Joe volunteered his time as a member of the Bayonne Board of School Estimate, the Bayonne Economic Development Corporation (where he served as Vice Chairman), and the Bayonne Town Center Management Corporation.
Joe was an active member of several civic, community and volunteer organizations including the Bayonne Cancer Society, Chairman of the Bayonne March of Dimes, Founder and Standard Bearer of the New Era Civic Club, Director and President of the Board of the Bayonne Community Day Nursery, and was a recipient of the Community Service Award from the Bayonne Chapter of the NAACP. After retiring from his position as Special Assistant to the Director of the Division of Family Services, he served as a Session Aide to Assembly Speaker Albio Sires.
Joe was especially proud of his Polish heritage and was known by many as a strong proponent in the Bayonne Polish community serving on the Board of Directors with the Polish American Home, the Polish American Community-Center and the Polish American Citizens-Club, as well as an active member of the Pulaski Parade Memorial Committee. Recognized for his leadership, example, and distinguished service to Polish culture, Joe served as the 1991 Bayonne Contingent Marshal for the tri-state Pulaski Day Parade in Manhattan.
Devoted to his Catholic faith, Joe served as a Lector and President of the Parish Council of the former Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. A communicant of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, he was a member of the St. Cecilia choir and a life member of the Mount Carmel Lyceum.
In May of 2022, in recognition of all that Joseph E. Makowski and Joseph L. Makowski had done for the city they loved so much, the City of Bayonne dedicated a City Park located at 28th Street and Avenue F, within the Second Ward that they served so well for so long, as "Makowski Park". Joseph L. Makowski spoke at length (quite frankly, because he knew of no other way to speak) that day about how enriched his life had been by virtue of his public and civic service and how proud he was that he and his father had been part of the Bayonne's growth and progress over the course of six decades. His last "official" public act was leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the City of Bayonne's 2022 Inauguration Ceremony.
Joe's most important role during his lifetime of service was as Second in Command of the Makowski Household Family Services under First in Command and wife of 51 years, Karen Makowski (nee Dorocki). His love for Karen knew no bounds. There was no Joe without Karen and no Karen without Joe. They traveled together, visiting Atlantic City and other such sites on rare occasions (if by "rare" one means "a lot"), and dined together at Rincon de Espana "rarely.". It wasn't Joe Makowski. It wasn't Karen Makowski. It was one word smushed together: "Joe & Karen Makowski". But what they did best together was raise two children, Lisa and Keith, both of whom Joe thought hung the moon and the stars. Notwithstanding Joe's big concern (not unfounded, by the way) that Karen would try to furnish the moon and the stars and supply them all with toiletries, cleaning supplies, and paper goods from Costco, there was nothing he wouldn't do for his two children. Joe was also blessed with two grandsons, Joey and Jack, who could do no wrong in Joe's eyes. Nothing gave Joe greater joy than watching Joey and Jack play baseball.
Joe's list of friends is Biblical in length, and he was most often found in their company. When he was with his friends and family, the only time he wasn't talking or laughing was when it was time to take a sip of his drink or a bite of his clams casino. He was a performer at heart and his friends, and anybody in the immediate vicinity were often the beneficiaries of passionate, in-depth, entertaining, and often hilarious extemporaneous monologues ---when Joe got rolling, a dialogue was not an option --- that were always delivered with perfect elocution and a twinkle in his eyes. Although he didn't need a microphone, there was no more dangerous place to be than between one and Joe Makowski.
Joe's life was well lived and the memories we have of him will always cause us to smile. He's gone, but he left a little bit of his spirit in everyone who had the privilege to know him. If you didn't know Joe Makowski and you happen to be in Bayonne, stop by the Rincon de Espana, enjoy an order of clams casino, and tell the staff Joe Makowski sent you. The smile you'll get in response is a little bit of his spirit for you to keep.
Left to cherish Joe's memory are his dearly beloved wife, Karen, his daughter Lisa and Kirk Ceballos, his son Keith and Carlene Makowski, their two sons, Joseph and Jack, and his furry friends, Oreo, Sofia, and Piper, sister-in-law Cynthia Kong, brothers-in-law, Kevin Dorocki, Kenneth Dorcki, and Robert and Diane Dorocki, his nieces Linda and James Ostaszewski and Cindy & Joseph Fagan and his nephew, Mark Makowski, Christopher and Kaitlyn Dorocki, and Kyle and Lisa Dorocki, extended family members Joe and Joann Barbero, Christopher Barbero, Jolene Barbero, Dan Trojan, Sandro Bergantino and Caterina Bergantino, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends. Joe is predeceased by his parents and two brothers.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend visiting hours at the Dworzanski & Son Funeral Home on Tuesday, May 16, from 3:00 to 8:00 P.M. A funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, May 17, at 11:00 A.M. from St. John Paul II Parish at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 39 East 22nd Street, Bayonne, N.J., followed by entombment at Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington, NJ. 340 Ridge Road, North Arlington, N.J.
Please note: Everyone is asked to meet at church at 10:45 A.M.
The family kindly requests donations be made in Joe's memory to Community Day Nursery 593 Broadway, Bayonne, NJ 07002, or to a charity of your choice.
“God saw the road was getting rough,
The hills were hard to climb
He gently closed your loving eyes
And Whispered, “Peace be Thine.”
The golden gate stood open,
He saw you needed rest,
God’s garden must be beautiful,
For he always picks the best.
Your life is a beautiful memory,
Your absence a silent grief.
You sleep in God’s beautiful garden
In the sunshine of perfect peace.”