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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 5, 2009
A half-century of service dies with Joe Colabro
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND Joe’s Service Station fell silent last week.
The sentry of McCormack Corners, Joseph Calabro died on Jan. 24, 2009 at the age of 78. Calabro was a fixture not only because he poured himself into the business that he ran for over half a century, but because he was a loyal friend.
“He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” said Carver Laraway, who began working at Calabro’s gas station nearly 40 years ago. “I continue to buy my fuel, to this day, from him,” said Laraway, who now owns a construction company.
Several of Calabro’s station attendants have begun their own businesses, said Dave Mohr. “Above and beyond anything, Joe was a businessman,” Mohr said, and he passed on his sense and knowledge of business to his young workers.
As a young man himself, “he used to sell vegetables out of a truck,” said Tom Evanchick. “He turned that truck into a service truck and bought Joe’s Service Station when he was 18.” Much of the produce that Calabro had sold in downtown Albany were tomatoes and carrots that he had bought from a wholesaler, but some of them came from his own plot behind his home, near the Watervliet Reservoir, said Evanchick, who worked at the gas station for 15 years.
Calabro never gave up tending his asparagus patch, “That was his sanctuary,” Mohr said. He was once offered $3 million for the property, but, Laraway remembered him asking, “Where would I grow my asparagus?”
“That was the simple part of him,” Laraway concluded.
“He was very generous,” Evanchick said. “If he knew you, he’d take care of you. He fed me three times a day.”
Calabro, though, was fond of asparagus and eggs, which, Evanchick said, “I couldn’t stand.”
Joe’s Service Station also offered a respite for Guilderland cops who were on duty, often on holidays, although he was sometimes at odds with the town, having been accused of charging unfairly high prices for towing. “For Easter, he’d cook a big ham,” said John Powell, which would feed the officers as they passed through.
In the fall, Joe’s Service Station would sometimes be the only Halloween stop for Stephanie McCauley’s two young kids, who would leave with bags full of candy. “There were years I would get them dressed up just to go there,” she said.
McCauley started getting gas at Joe’s because it was on her way to work, she said, but after she had children, Calabro filled part of the space left by the boys’ deceased grandfathers. “Joe had this amazing garden,” she said. He “showed my kids the power of using the earth.”
“He was a simple guy,” Laraway said. “Down to earth, believed in work.”
“He died with his boots on,” said Powell. “That was his life, working 18 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Joseph Calabro is survived by his brother, Santo Calabro of Kansas City, Mo.; his sister, Mary Roberts and her husband, Lambert, of Schenectady; his sister, Laura Reggio and her husband, Gino, of Schenectady. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A funeral service was held at the DeMarco Stone Funeral Home Inc., Guilderland, on Feb. 2, 2009. Interment was in Schenectady Memorial Park.
Memorial donations may be made to the Guilderland Animal Shelter, 6363 French’s Mill Road, Guilderland, NY 12084.