CARTHAGE, NY — The Abbass Food Market at the corner of West End Avenue and Parham Street in Carthage has been gone for a long time but there are still many people that think of that little family grocery store, and with it, they think of Joseph Amin Abbass.
Joe, who ran the shop for his family, loved talking with customers, delivering groceries, butchering the best cuts of meat, reaching up to the tippy-top shelf with his extra-long, two-pronged grabber to pull down items for anyone that would ask, and treating children to a surprise hard candy or two.
On Wednesday afternoon, after a long life well-lived, Mr. Abbass died at the age of 88 in the home where he raised his family on North Washington Street.
Joe is survived by his three daughters Gale Marie Abbass of New Orleans, LA, Ami Jo Abbass of Rochester, N.Y. and Julie Abbass currently in Carthage; his sister-in-law Donna Abbass of Watertown; cousins, nieces, and nephews; and his cat named Miu.
His wife, Susanne B. Abbass, brothers Albert A. Abbass of Watertown and Peter A. Abbass of Carthage, his parents, sister-in-law Mary B. Abbass, and far too many friends have all died before him.
Joe was born in Watertown on Oct. 6, 1932, as the second son to Agnes Gastin Abbass, originally from Shenandoah, PA., and Amin Betrus Abbass, a Lebanese immigrant.
In his day, Joe was a talented 3-sport athlete at the Augustinian Academy High School in Carthage, playing football, basketball, and baseball before graduating in 1950.
Over time, however, college football became his main sports focus, leading him to a dedicated life of couch-coaching the Notre Dame football team for more than fifty years and attending many of their games in person.
For years, Joe led the Abbass Food bowling team, and it was bowling that brought him together with Susanne Barr, who he married in 1963.
Joe graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business and economics from Niagara University in 1956, before returning home to the family’s various businesses and properties. Along with his father and brothers, Joe helped to build Abbass & Co. Food Distributors on Canal Street in 1959 which, in 1966, evolved into the Abbass Food Corporation in Evans Mills.
Until it was clear that small grocery stores were going the way of the dinosaur, Joe stuck with the corner shop and the community it served. He then led the sales end of Abbass Food Corp. and formed relationships with food-buying business owners from Old Forge to Massena.
From 1996 to 2011, Joe worked at McGrath Gym on Fort Drum, where he loved the camaraderie and the opportunity to continue his athleticism.
At the age of 74, while still working at the rec center, a head-on collision with a snowplow shattered six of his vertebrae and required the insertion of two titanium rods.
With a grin, he attributed his ability to be up and walking two days after surgery to eating a lot of olive oil and a daily workout consisting of 10 minutes on the rowing machine, 20 minutes in the pool and two hours in the sauna. It kept his “bones soft,” he said.
An extremely hard worker, he ultimately retired from the rec center at 78 years old.
As a true man of his generation, Joe valued providing for his family, loyalty, and friendship. He was a strict father, a perfectionist and determined to give his family the best life he could.
He was loved.
In his own way, Joe was dedicated to feeding the world.
He carried on the Lebanese tradition ensuring no one entered his house without being given extensive hospitality involving copious amounts of food and drink to which “no” was not an accepted answer.
Joe always tried to help people when he saw an opportunity, like quietly leaving a box full of fresh cut meat and groceries on the doorstep where a family stayed after their home burnt to the ground; bringing safe-to-eat hot meals to a home-bound neighbor; and delivering pizza every week to a neighbor family with three children that lost their mother.
Joe was active in the Carthage Elks Club, serving as secretary for one term and is a Fourth Degree, lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus.
Joe’s family would like to thank caregiver Curtis Brooks, Dr. Mirza Ashraf, Public Health Nurse Amy Wonderly for the help and support with Joe’s care for the past year as well as the Carthage Area Rescue Squad.
A calling hour will be held on Saturday, July 31 at 10 a.m. at St. James Catholic Church before the 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial. Details for a post-burial gathering will be announced in the service.
The service can be joined via ZOOM starting at 10:45 a.m. at https://tulane.zoom.us/j/96508296454 using meeting ID 965 0829 6454.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Joe’s honor to Carthage Augustinian Academy, 317 West St., Carthage, NY 13619.
Online condolences may be made at BezanillaFH.com.