Joe Tursi

Joe Tursi

Joe Tursi, owner of Tursi’s Clothing, one of the Greatest Generation of immigrants who made the South Side a cozy Italian haven, has passed away:

Joseph S. Tursi, 88, passed from this life on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at Mercy Hospice in Johnston. A Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Monday, February 22, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church where he was a lifelong member. Burial will follow at Glendale Cemetery. A visitation will be held at Hamilton’s Southtown Funeral Home on Sunday, February 21st from 2-7 pm with family present from 2-4 pm and from 5:30-7 pm. A Bellizzi MacRae American Legion service will take place at 5:30 pm, followed by the Society of Italian Americans. There will be rosary at 6 pm.

Joe was born in Terravecchia, Italy on November 8th, 1921 to Francesco and Carmela Tursi. When he was eight years old he immigrated to the United States. In 1937 his father bought Park Ave. Shoe Repair, which Joe operated while attending and graduating from Lincoln High School. In 1942 he hung up his apron and volunteered for the Army Air Corps, in which he served honorably in England during World War II. After returning to the U.S., he married Sarah Fazio on Janaury 8th, 1950 at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and loved her for more than sixty years. In 1952, with his brother Paul, Joe expanded Park Ave. Shoe Repair into Tursi’s Clothing, which in the mid – 70’s was one of the largest privately owned clothing stores in the Midwest. Joe owned and operated the clothing store for over 40 years. After retiring he stayed active by constantly volunteering and by working with his son at the Latin King Restaurant. He hugged every lady who walked in the door and cleared tables faster than any teen-aged bus boy up until December of 2008. Joe loved interacting with people and had to be on the move. Even in his last days, he refused to use a wheel chair.

His life was guided by a few simple philosophies: Always be a gentleman; never go to sleep mad at the ones you love; family first; and why make one girl miserable when you can make them all happy? The latter was a guiding force only during his earlier years and was preached to his grandsons during rough patches of adolescent relationships. While these philosophies were simple, they led Joe to accomplish many things. Joe is the former President of the Stemma D’Italia; he started the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of St. Anthony’s; he belonged to the Build Lincoln Higher Club; he sat on the Board of Brenton Bank and on the Board of Health for the State of Iowa. He helped to found the Society of Italian Americans, was a member of the Knights of Columbus, started the Columbus Day Dinner Celebration, and honored his roots by collecting donations for an annual celebration in his hometown of Terravecchia and it’s parish, San Pietro in Vincoli. He was active in the American Legion, the Fleur Nursing Home, the Isaac Walton League, St. Anthony’s Church, and was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.

If asked, Joe would have said that his greatest pleasure was his family. Left to always honor his memory are his wife, Sarah; his daughter, Carmela (Robert) Hobbins, grandchildren, Brian, Patrick (Jeannie), Teddy, and great granddaughter, Lilly Hobbins; his son Frank (Molly), his grandchildren, Joe, Katie (Chul) Lee, Bridget, Jenna, Anna, and his great granddaughter, Mia Sun Lee; his son, Joe (Joan) and grandchildren, Kristina (Aaron) Anderson, Tony and David; his son, Bob (Amy), and grandchildren, Gina and RJ, brother, Paul (Darlene), and special cousins, Pete, Mary, and Dale Tursi, who were all fortunate enough to have shared in Joe’s life.

The lessons he left his family are basic but invaluable: Love one another; love your spouse; help others; and don’t complain. He showed us how in the way he treated us, in his relationship with Sarah, by the countless people he readily assisted, and by responding, “Not bad, not bad,” when asked how he was doing on the day he died. With his quiet confidence and optimistically uncomplicated outlook on life, he was the greatest role model a family could have. He was an inspiration throughout his life and will continue to be in death. Memorial contributions may be given to the St. Anthony’s Church Foundation. Online condolences may be made to .


4 Responses to “Joe Tursi”

  1. Loretta Rizzuti Says:

    I was at St. Anthony’s for Joe’s funeral this morning. It was a very moving and touching Mass. Joe and my father are from the same small home-town in Italy. Joe was 10 months younger than my father. It was a great friendship for over 80 years. Joe was a great ICON for the south-side of Des Moines and will be missed by many. I always thought it was hard to drive down SW 9th after the store closed. It will be harder to have dinner at the Latin King without Joe being there asking “How’s Mom, how’s Dad…..After Joe, the mold was clearly broken for a true gentleman.

    Thoughts and prayers to the Tursi family.

  2. Mark E. Blunck Says:

    I remember all those hours spent at their clothing store trying to find jeans that fit and other clothes in junior high and high school. Joe and Paul were so helpful at all times. A great clothing store run by a couple of nice guys who always spent time talking with you as you tried to find the right piece. Loretta is right about seeing the place on SW 9th all those years and then that whole row just felt empty when the store closed. May we all live as long and be as happy.

  3. Karen Lumsden Says:

    Just heard of our DEAR FRIEND the AMERICA BUILDER Joseph Tursi is in heaven spreading the news that ‘LIFE IS GOOD’…
    What an honor and privelege to know Mr. Joe and Sweet Ms. Sarah – the love of his life he always told us, when asking How’s Sarah.. Joe would say “Sarah is the Love of My Life”. I will always remember him loving his family TOTALLY AND PURELY… May God be With you all and Blessings to you with the Love that Mr. Joe has given everyone.
    Spirit Lake was a ‘fun spot’ full of family – Father and Mother I Love You.
    We danced, ate, told stories and listened to Joes VISION he had for his family.. WOW.. IN HIS GRIP.. and LOVE the Italian Way- PURE.. God Bless to you All- Joe is now is wrapped in peace in the hands of GOD.
    Karen and Monty Lumsden

  4. Melinda Hawn Morath Says:

    What fond memories I have of my mother taking my sisters and I to Tursi’s to do some shopping when we were growing up. We loved it!! I miss stores like that – they always made us feel like family.
    Melinda Hawn Morath

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