The Real 007

I don’t know why this one particular obituary in the newspaper caught my eye.  I’m not a big obituary reader.  Maybe it was the letters FBI in the heading.  Maybe it was the smiling older gentleman with the bushy white hair whose face looked out above the words.  Or the name, Joe Campisi.  Good old Joe.  But as soon as I read the first sentence I was hooked.  Here are some choice excerpts:

A graduate of Brooklyn Law School in 1939, he practiced law before joining the FBI in 1941.  His assignments with the FBI included covert work with its Special Intelligence Service in Central and South America.  It was during this period that he served as security adviser to President Enrique Penaranda of Bolivia.  He took a leave of absence from the FBI in 1944 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.  After basic training, he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.  His assignments with the OSS took him to England and France.

At the end of World War II, Joe was discharged from the Marine Corps, resigned from the FBI, and began working for the Bulova Watch Company.  During his 36 years with Bulova, he was crucial to establishing Bulova’s international business eventually becoming Executive Vice President of its International Operations.

He retired in 1981 but continued to fill his days.  He became a chairman of his American Legion post.  He volunteered at a local hospital for twenty-one years.  He was a long-standing active member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI along with his wife of 64 years, also previously with the FBI.  He never missed a Memorial Day parade.  In his later years he would tell stories to his grandchildren about the three days he once spent underneath the porch of an enemy’s house in Argentina listening to their conversations.  He confided that he’d survived on Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds.  One of his daughters said, “There’s probably a thousand things I don’t know about him.”

When his alma mater, Brooklyn Law School, graduated its class of 2003, Joe was given the honor of presenting the school’s diploma to his grandson who was graduating cum laude . . . He loved to travel, garden, and play golf, tennis and squash.  On his 90th birthday, he decided to give up squash in the hope of improving his golf and tennis games.

By all accounts, none of his daring exploits could outshine his devotion to his family and the generosity he showed to all who knew him.

Joe Campisi died at age 93 early last month.  I dare say there are not many people who could inspire an obituary that reads like The Bourne Identity meets Father Knows Best while leaving the reader wondering what hasn’t been told.  Or even known.  Said his daughter, “He was very close to the vest.  I went to get his safe deposit box . . . and I was hoping to find three passports and a gun.”  She didn’t.  But I get the feeling whatever she did find could fill up a whole other obituary.

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