Mayor Carl Wright of Sloatsburg delivered a touching eulogy for Chief Joseph Miele at his funeral last week. Upon request he was kind enough to share his words with the Rockland County Times.
On this mid fall morning in the foothills of the Ramapos the family, friends, neighbors, fellow veterans, firefighters and law enforcement officers have assembled to celebrate, remember and reflect on the remarkable life of Joseph Miele. To be complete and concise in reviewing the life of this exceptional individual is impossible to do, but what we can do is to take representative samples that will illustrate as well as illuminate the various aspects of his life and the depth of his character.
The Chief was a product of the twentieth century. He was born at the time when individual destiny and that of the nation were joined in an unbreakable bond.
He was the son of immigrants. The Miele family believed in hard work and exhibited a commitment to their church. They promoted family values and valued family. They pursued the American Dream and with hard work they were able to attain it. But that is not to say the Chief’s life was free of challenge and adversity. Growing up in the 1930’s was painful and difficult for many Americans.
In 1943 at the age of 16 he began to display his lifelong interest in public service by becoming a member of the Sloatsburg Fire Department and the following year at the age of 17 he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. He served in all areas of World War II. His bravery and courage were recognized when he became the recipient of the Phillipine Liberation Medal.
Living through the Great Depression in the 1930’s and serving the nation in World War II made him a member of what is considered America’s greatest generation. Upon returning from World War II he embarked upon a career in public service that is unequalled.
He helped establish the Sloatsburg American Legion Post 1643. He later served as Commander.
He was a founder of the Sloatsburg Ambulance Corps.
He was a member of the Sloatsburg Fire Department for 68 years, serving as Chief from 1952-1956. He was Chief during the great mill fire in 1955.
In 1950 he commenced his long and distinguished law enforcement career when he joined the Sloatsburg Police Department. A year later he became an officer in the Ramapo Police Department. He rose through the ranks to become Chief. A position he held for 33 years. In recognition of his leadership ability, integrity, courage and devotion to duty the police headquarters was named in his honor. What greater recognition could be granted.
But the sum total of Joseph Miele is not the resume of the positions he held. Those are the things he did. Who he was- was a person of exceptional talent who possessed the components of a natural leader. He conducted himself with a decorum that demanded respect. All of those who had contact with him quickly recognized he was a special individual. He established the standard by which other law enforcement officers will be measured.
He was a Yankee fan, liked John Wayne movies, and collected hats. He had a great sense of humor, a wonderful smile and a passion for being of service to others. On 9/11 he requested to be taken to Ground Zero so that he could be of assistance.
More than six decades ago, Joe met and fell in love with his soulmate, Lorraine Colbath. She would remain his sweetheart and the love of his life. They enjoyed 61 years of married bliss. Joe and Lorraine approached life and their fellow human beings with compassion and generosity. They were so proud of their daughters, Carol and Laurie and their son in law Tom.
The apples of their eyes were of course their beautiful grandchildren Lauren and Kristen and their grandson in law Ray. Joe’s face would glow whenever talking about his family.
During the past few days we cannot imagine the pain or feelings the Miele family has experienced, but we have observed the strength, dignity, courage, grace and faith that they have demonstrated during this time of tremendous challenge. It is hoped that knowing that the hundreds and hundreds of people praying and thinking of them in this difficult time will ease their pain in knowing that Chief Joseph Miele has enriched and enhanced the lives of so many. This will always be a source of pride and comfort.
At 9/11, veterans ceremonies, and other affairs, Chief Miele always enjoyed a place of honor. His seat may be vacant in the future, but his spirit will always be present. Joseph Miele- son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, veteran, firefighter, police officer, public servant—an American hero.
His love for St. Joan of Arc was immeasurable. He faithfully followed the dictates of the Old Testament. What is it that the Lord require of thee, do justice, love and mercy and walk humbly with thy God. In a few minutes, the flag of a graceful nation will be placed upon his casket and taken to his place of rest. Tonight and thereafter the stars will be much brighter for Chief Joseph Miele who will be patrolling the heavens.
Knowing you has been a privilege
Your friendship a blessing
Your leadership an inspiration
You will live in our hearts and fond memories forever.
You shall not be forgotten.
On behalf of your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and community I salute you dear friend.