Of course, Joan Pizzutillo’s obituary gave the names of her two children, Mark Pizzutillo, of Hammonton, and Karen DiPierro, of Linwood.
But her obit also gave the names of her two cats, Oscar and Charlie. And the list of survivors for Joan, who split time in recent years between living with her son and daughter, went on to include “The Boys, who kissed her and loved her every second they could — Snowball, Coochie, Hercules ... and her favorite Sammy.”
The Boys also were known as her dogs, but that current canine collection is hardly the whole lifetime roster of dogs Joan owned before she died last month, at 81.
Because DiPierro also remembers a pair of dogs named Caesar, including the one her mom smuggled — as a puppy, in her pocketbook — into DiPierro’s wedding at Caesars Atlantic City. DiPierro says hers was the first wedding ever held at the then-new casino, “and let me tell you, Caesar christened Caesars,” she says, laughing.
Then there was Joan’s husband, Pooch Pizzitullo. His real name was Anthony, but his daughter says nobody ever called him that, from the time he was a kid until he died, in 1983, at just 58. Apparently, the couple bonded in part over a shared love of dogs.
“When he was young, he brought dogs home all the time,” she says. “He was born in the heart of the Depression, so his family had no money and they would scream at him. But he always had dogs with him, so his nickname was Pooch.”
Joan and Pooch grew up in different Camden neighborhoods, and he wasn’t the only guy who spotted her.
“My mother was really stunning when she was younger,” her daughter says. “She had so many guys after her — and then she ended up with a guy named Pooch. ... Dogs, dogs, dogs. I think that was one of the reasons she fell for him, because of the kindness in his heart.”
Bob Corney, Joan’s younger brother — by seven years — agrees his sister had a way of attracting attention. And he found ways to make that work for him.
“I remember as a kid, all these guys would come knocking on our door,” says Corney, who’s retired from the computer business and living in Atlanta.
One neighborhood business was the Campbell’s Soup plant, which in the summer would draw tomato deliveries from several states. And all those hungry drivers would draw food trucks that set up to sell them hot dogs, burgers and cheesesteaks. Corney says he’d take a picture of Joan with him and offer to introduce her to the counter guy on the food truck — and use the trick to get free sandwiches and sodas from the truck.
But that trick lasted only until his big sister sniffed it out.
“She was small and tiny, but she packed a hell of a punch. She beat the crap out of me,” Corney said, adding that Joan also once defended herself against another guy by whacking him, too — this time, with a brick.
Her brother can trace her love of dogs back to when Joan was a kid and the family had a dog named Alfie. Alfie “could get away with murder,” Corney says — including standing up and pushing Joan’s bed around, while she was in it. Then he fast-forwards to Joan visiting his family in Georgia, where he had a dog named Scarlett O’Hara, a Siberian husky mix.
He calls Scarlett “a pretty fair-sized dog” — and says her favorite place to sit was right in her Aunt Joan’s lap.
Her daughter adds there was another dog named Caesar, right before DiPierro was born in 1956. And then there was Bondie — which got its name because the two Pizzutillo kids bought the dog by trading in savings bonds.
“When we had to put him to sleep, she cried and cried,” DiPierro said.
But then the second Caesar came along to ease her pain. DiPierro rescued the puppy from a Margate street right before her wedding, then let her mom take care of the pup for the wedding and honeymoon. When the daughter got home, she said she was ready to take Caesar back.
“She said, ‘No, no, we’re keeping the dog.’ I told her I found him and I wanted my dog back,” DiPierro continues. But her mom wouldn’t give up — and she kept custody of Caesar for the next 16 years.
That brings us to the present, and The Boys. They were technically DiPierro’s dogs — but her mom was their live-in babysitter. She was popular. too, even if she played favorites.
“I always told her, ‘Mom, I think you love Sammy more than you love me,’” the daughter says.
When her mom died, the family didn’t want flowers — they asked for donations to animal shelters in Joan’s memory instead. But there was one flower arrangement.
“My cousin is a florist, and she made a dog bone out of white carnations,” DiPierro said. “They put (the words) ‘Milk-Bone’ on it” — because Joan loved handing those treats out to every dog she met. “And across that, they signed, in glitter, ‘The Boys.’”
When she was buried, that giant, personalized Milk-Bone went into Joan’s casket with her.
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