Obituaries

Joseph A. Pagliuca, 92, retired chemical company executive

Joseph Pagliuca had a lengthy career and was a veteran of two wars.
Joseph Pagliuca had a lengthy career and was a veteran of two wars.

Joseph Pagliuca, who served in the Army during two wars, once said that the camaraderie was his favorite part of being in the military.

“I met people that I probably would never be able to meet, since they were from every part of the United States,” he recalled in a video that was recorded when he was honored by the advocacy organization Veterans Legal Services. “I lived in New York City and I never got out of the city until I was drafted into the service.”

Mr. Pagliuca, who was 92 when he died of cancer Sept. 18 in his Chapel Hill, N.C., home, would go on to meet people throughout the world in his lengthy career as a chemical engineer and executive.

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But his most important encounter came as he prepared to leave New York for his second stint in the Army, during the Korean War.

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“I was living at the YWCA in New York City and he had just been recalled to the service as a second lieutenant,” said his wife, Janet.

His Army company decided to use some extra funds to put on a dance “and sent an invitation to the ladies at the YWCA,” she said. “Some of my friends were going and they convinced me that I should come along, and I never dreamed I would meet somebody who I would live with the rest of my life.”

When she and her friends arrived at the dance, Mr. Pagliuca “was the person meeting and greeting us as we got off the bus,” she said.

“As he tells it, when he saw her step off the bus, he told his friends, ‘I’m going to marry that girl,’ ” said Mr. Pagliuca’s daughter, Bliss Turner of Chapel Hill, N.C.

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“And he did, which was typical,” Mr. Pagliuca’s wife added. “If he says he’ll do something, he usually does it.”

They married in 1952 and began a life together that took them to Framingham and Basking Ridge, N.J., to Japan and the Netherlands, to Switzerland and Texas, and once more to Japan.

“He’s really representative of the greatest generation,” said his son Stephen Pagliuca of Boston, who is cochairman of Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics.

Upon returning home from the Korean War, Mr. Pagliuca landed a job in New York City with United States Gypsum Corp., a building materials and products company.

When a sales position opened soon after, the Pagliucas moved to Framingham, his base for meeting with the company’s New England customers.

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“In those days, you had to travel with quarters in the car to make calls from pay phones,” his son said.

‘Family was a very, very important part of his life — probably the most important part.’

Janet Pagliuca 

Mr. Pagliuca was hired away by the Upjohn chemical company and his family was living in Basking Ridge when an opportunity arose to move to Japan.

“We weren’t sure when he applied if he would get it,” his wife recalled, “but he got it and he made the most of it because he always worked hard and put a lot of effort into everything he did.”

In Japan, Mr. Pagliuca was executive vice president of Kasei Upjohn, a joint venture between Upjohn and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp.

His two younger children learned to speak Japanese, which Mr. Pagliuca saw as a beneficial experience. “They learned that the world is a big place with a lot of different things and people and cultures,” his wife said.

Nurturing his family had always been a priority. Joseph A. Pagliuca was born in the Bronx, N.Y., the oldest of three children.

His mother, the former Maria Forenza, was known as Mary.

His father, Salvatore Pagliuca, and mother emigrated from the same part of southern Italy, but didn’t meet until they had moved to the United States.

“My grandfather worked in a shoe factory, so they always had very good shoes,” Stephen said.

“My grandfather made shoes that would be sold to Saks Fifth Avenue.”

Years later, when the Pagliucas lived in Basking Ridge, Mr. Pagliuca drove in to New York to bring his parents out to New Jersey on the weekends.

“He was close to his parents and he was close to his sisters,” his wife said. “Family was a very, very important part of his life — probably the most important part.”

Mr. Pagliuca came of age in the Depression and was 18 when he was drafted by the Army. He served with 87th Infantry Division, which suffered heavy losses during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

When the war ended, he used the GI Bill to attend Michigan State University, from which he received a bachelor’s degree.

He also joined the ROTC, and was a commissioned officer when he was called back to military service for the Korean War.

Mr. Pagliuca married Janet Woods, who was then a singer from Mount Vernon, Ill., and they had three children. “He was always there for each of us if we ever needed anything,” their daughter said. “He was a very strong presence in all of our lives.”

His career as a chemical company executive brought Mr. Pagliuca and his wife to the Netherlands and Switzerland before they returned to Japan, when he was hired to be the representative director of GAF Ltd. and help build that company’s business in Tokyo.

“He had huge family values and put one foot in front of the other,” Stephen said. “He was humble, quiet, and had high integrity.”

A private service will be held for Mr. Pagliuca, who in addition to his wife, son, and daughter leaves his son Jeffrey of Denver; his sister, Lucille Mellusi; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

“I think a neighbor put it very nicely when she said that she always walked away from her encounters with him feeling very happy,” Bliss said of her father.

“He was always very interested in other people, and he enjoyed helping people, giving people advice, and just knowing about them.”

Respected by colleagues, Mr. Pagliuca was a mentor to family and friends alike, and was remembered in particular for three character traits. “Honesty, loyalty, and humility,” his wife said. “I think that says it all.”

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.