By Alexander Dworkowitz
Joseph Biondi loved Wednesday nights.
One day a week, Biondi, the late president of the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service, would join his friends on call Wednesday nights, waiting to serve members of the community from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“He used to go up there and make mussels and spaghettis while they were on call,” said his wife, Diane. “He had a lot of friends at the corps.”
After a battle with pancreatic and liver cancer, Biondi died Dec. 21 at the age of 53.
Hundreds came to pay respects to Biondi at his funeral on Christmas Eve. Seven ambulances and close to 50 other vehicles took part in the funeral procession.
“I’ve never seen so many grown man cry than at his funeral,” said Biondi’s daughter, Melissa, 23, who teaches second graders at PS 154 in Fresh Meadows.
Joe Papillo, blood bank chairman for the corps, had known Biondi since he joined the volunteer group 18 years ago.
“Joe has been very active,” said Papillo. “We’re certainly going to miss him here.”
Papillo worked with Biondi on Wednesdays, with Papillo serving as an ambulance driver and Biondi as an the emergency medical technician. The Whitestone service responds to calls in the area using its two ambulances.
Biondi became president of the corps almost two years ago. At the end of his two-year term, Biondi considered stepping down as president because of his illness. But Papillo convinced him to run again for president.
Although Biondi had to stop working as an EMT, Herb Klein, who works as purchasing director for the corps, said Biondi fulfilled his duties as president up until the day of his death.
“There were days that he was in a lot of pain,” said Klein. “He was unwavering.”
Diane had known Biondi for more than 30 years. They met on a blind date in 1969 and married five years later. In 1977, after the birth of their daughter, Marlena, they moved to Whitestone.
Diane said her husband, who worked hard at a family auto body shop and later as insurance agent, enjoyed a good laugh.
“He always liked to joke around,” said Diane, who works at the corps as chief dispatcher. “He took his job very seriously.”
Diane said that in his spare time, her husband loved to cook and worked on model trains and his 1967 Pontiac GTO.
Biondi used his passion for cars to instruct his two daughters.
“As soon as I got my license, he would teach me about the different parts under the hood,” said Melissa.
Besides his wife and two daughters, Biondi is also survived by his father Joseph, 82, who sobbed quietly when asked about his son.
Marlena, 25, who works as an executive assistant at the Fresh Meadows Country Club, said Biondi was a very good father who was well-loved.
“He liked everyone,” she said. “Then again, everyone liked him.”
Melissa said her father’s lesson extended to more than just the different parts under the hood of the car.
“He taught me life lessons: be fair, truthful,” said Melissa. “Always see things from other people’s point of view.”
Klein shared the sentiments of the Biondi family, saying Biondi was well-known and loved.
“He was loved by anybody who knew him,” he said. “He was that kind of person.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.