Joseph Nunes, 1910-2008

He was a first generation Portuguese American who was a member of the Oak Bluffs fire department for more than forty years, a widely loved unsung hero.

He never made the front page of the Gazette. And that’s too bad because Joe Nunes was a pretty good story. He was one of the builders of the Portuguese American Club and an early member of the Holy Ghost Society, the venerable Oak Bluffs institution which was founded by Azorean and Cape Verdean immigrants in the nineteen thirties and still sponsors an annual summer feast to raise money for scholarships for high school students.

He was a devout Catholic whose formal education ended in the fourth grade. He was a farmer who knew how to slaughter a hog the right way. And he loved to dance the night away at the Tivoli and other places as well.

In a 1999 interview with oral historian Linsey Lee, Joe recalled many stories from the old days. He concluded:

“The Portuguese people at that time used to stick together, help each other. But the old-timers are gone. The old timers, my age, they’re all gone. All gone.”

Joe Nunes died last week at the age of ninety seven. His funeral is tomorrow. A reception will follow at the Portuguese American Club, where there is sure to be dancing.