SIERRA VISTA — Joseph ‘Joe’ James DeFrancesco was born in the Bronx, New York on March 9, 1933. The only son of first-generation Italian- and Jewish-American parents, Joe lived the American Dream to its fullest.
Though a Bronx native, Joe became an adoptive son of Cochise County. He embraced this region that he happened to be stationed at in the 1970s. However, Joe recalled that on his first visit to the region on the drive down to Fort Huachuca from Tucson he thought to himself “What is this God forsaken land I’ve come to?!?” First impressions can be deceiving.
Most knew Joe as a fierce legal advocate for his clients and a formidable opposing counsel here in Sierra Vista. The law was Joe’s passion. There are those that wake up every day and love what they do, that was indeed the case for Joe DeFrancesco. He believed in helping people and his profession allowed him to do just that — solve peoples’ problems, big and small.
Joe was a proud product of Catholic School education, specifically of the Jesuit order, and credited his professional success to the grounding of these institutions — Bishop Duffy High School in Niagara Falls (where he spent his childhood), Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and Georgetown for Law School.
Upon graduating law school Joe married his first wife, Crisalida, with whom he had two daughters, Carmen and Teresa, and entered the army as a commissioned officer serving in the office of the Staff Judge Advocate. Joe went on to serve 20 years in the army, serving in Vietnam and being stationed at the Pentagon, Germany, and Panama. His last assignment was in Ft. Huachuca where he served as Staff Judge Advocate and attained the rank of Lt. Colonel. Here he met his second wife, Victoria with whom he had one daughter, Vicky.
While in the army, Joe attended the Monterrey Language School where he learned Spanish. This opened the door to his discovery of the joys of Latin culture and music. Some of Joe’s fondest memories are from his time stationed in Panama — hence why it was not uncommon to see Joe sporting a Guayabera in the summer months.
After retiring from the army Joe went into private practice where he practiced law for over 30 years. Joe relished being able to bring his legal expertise to public service and giving back to his community. He served as Legal Counsel for Habitat for Humanity and the United Way as well as being a member of the Monday evening Rotary.
With more spare time, Joe also enjoyed going to the gym with his buddies and traveling with his wife. And as for hobbies, let’s say always being in search of good Italian food was one of them. Even though the kid from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx loved the Southwest and Mexican food, his taste for Italian cheeses, cold cuts, and Sicilian wine stayed with him till the end.
Joe had an optimism and a ready wide grin that reflected that optimism and love of life. A lasting lesson imparted by Joe to those around him was not sweating the small stuff and enjoying life.
After more than four decades in the Southwest Joe, together with his wife packed up and headed to Austin, Texas to be by their daughter. They then moved again early this year with their daughter as she started a new job in Little Rock, Arkansas. And here is where Joe concluded his story on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, surrounded by his wife and daughters.
Joe got a kick out of how a boy from the Bronx ended up living out his days in Little Rock, Arkansas. But regardless of the geographic bookends of his life, his heart was in Southeast Arizona’s high desert where he lived for half of his life.
Joe DeFrancesco’s remains will be laid to rest at his home parish, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. A memorial mass will be said this Thursday, June 30 at noon. Joe is survived by his loving wife, three daughters, and five grandchildren who miss him dearly.