Joseph Mark Puglia, age 75, died of complications of Parkinson's Disease on Friday August 21, 2020 at St. Margaret's nursing home. His sister was grateful to be with him to witness a very peaceful passing. Joe (Joey to his family and old friends) was born on March 20, 1945 to the best parents anyone could ever hope for – Joseph Francis and Catherine Conlin Puglia. Joe attended kindergarten at Ursuline Academy, where he and several other over-active boys made that the last class of the short-lived Ursuline co-ed experiment. In his young life Joe was a sort of junior stuntman – rolling down stairs, crashing his bike on purpose, cowboy fights reenactments, all without injury. Joe attended St Rita grade school, where he and his three life-long friends – Billy Douglass, Jimmy Conway and the late Woody Handy- became The Group, diminished now but still in existence. Joe also learned several skills from our cool teenage neighbor, Alan Clapp – how to produce long, loud burps at will, to our parents embarrassment and everyone else's amusement. Also how to mercilessly tease people, but not in a mean way. His Mother, always lamenting her added pounds, was an easy target - “She ain't heavy, she's my Mother” and the nickname Fats Momino.
Joe graduated from DeLaSalle High School and in 1967 graduated with a degree in journalism from LSU. At LSU he was the Social Chairman of PKT fraternity, engineering large noisy parties, one in the basement of our family home, which left a lingering aroma of stale beer for several days. Joe also used the basement to practice on the complete drum set he had bought, to everyone's delight. His success as Social Chairman led to his first brief career, JMP Enterprises, which booked mostly unknown New Orleans rhythm and blues bands. He really loved it, but decided a steady salary would be nice so he went to work at the West Bank Guide weekly newspaper, where he soon became editor-in-chief. In 1973 he became editor and business manager of the Red River Journal, a weekly newspaper in Pineville.
During that time Joe won New Orleans Press Club Awards for Best Picture Story and for Best Headline. He served two terms as Press Club President. For several years he was on the skit committee for the Club's annual Gridiron Show, a perfect opportunity to make fun of a lot easy targets - politicians and public figures. From 1976 to 1983, he was Public Relations Director and Safety Director for AAA, including school safety programs. He was a lobbyist for AAA safety issues, and also to institute statewide right-turn-on-red as a gas saving measure. Joe served on the boards of New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, and the Kidney Foundation.
In 1984, Joe and several others started PRG, The Public Relations Group. In 1985, in conjunction with Communirep Inc., PRG was awarded a contract with the Sewerage and Water Board. There Joe developed a Public Information program and planned several drainage millage elections. He was their frequent spokesman on tv and radio, going at all hours day or night to the site of water main breaks or drainage leaks. In spite of their current woes, SWB was Joe's favorite job. He was always upset that the crews working in dirty, wet conditions in heat and cold were often criticized. He was especially upset that then-director Marcia St. Martin and the SWB did not receive the credit they deserved for their post-Katrina work. All predictions indicated months to drain flood waters from NO, but SWB got the job done in just 6 weeks.
In 2003 Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He handled the bad news well and went on with his normal life. In August 2005, as he had always done, Joe was at the SWB to give out information during another hurricane. The frightening and heart-breaking things Joe saw in the aftermath, combined with Parkinson's had such a terrible effect on him, that he seemed a different person. Joe was always a good, kind and generous person. Hopefully his friends and colleagues will remember the pre-Katrina Joe. Joe is survived by his only sister, Kathleen Puglia (Jay Mellon), his former wife and friend Dianne Leres, his Conlin and Puglia cousins, and many friends.
Thanks to the St Margaret staff for their care of Joe, too numerous to name. Also thanks to his home caregivers from several years ago: Pamela Clanton, Renita Jenkins, Laura Nicholas, Lois Sanders, Nancy Butler, Annie Greer, and Barbara McDonald. Special thanks to his caregiver and friend for his past two years at St Margaret, Andrea Berry.
If you wish to make a donation in Joe's memory to try to cure this devastating disease The Michael J. Fox Foundation https://www.michaeljfox.org/
Relatives and friends are invited to attend the visitation at Greenwood Funeral Home, 5200 Canal Blvd, New Orleans, on Saturday, August 29, 2020, starting at 11:00 AM, followed by a Funeral Mass in the Chapel at 1:00 PM. Burial will be at a later date.
Due to COVID 19 regulations, please follow the current restrictions and everyone attending is required to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
P.O. Box 5014 Hagerstown, Hagerstown MD 21741-5014