Joseph "Joe" Resong
March 12, 1939 ~ May 14, 2023
Resided in: Lawndale, California
Joe, or Mickey as he was called by his family, was born in Marshfield, a small town west of Steven’s Point, in the middle of Wisconsin, on March 12, 1939 to Albert and Appolonia Resong. While still a child, the family moved to Racine on the shores of Lake Michigan, and he grew up with his sister, Rita, in various homes as they moved throughout the area. For a time, he lived with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles a stone’s throw from the lake. Joe’s early years found him playing at the quarry, riding his bicycle with friends, heading down the river on a homemade raft, and searching along the train tracks for coal that had fallen from passing steam trains to help heat their home. Not having money, he built his own toys, and created his own fun. When he was old enough, he became a delivery boy for the local newspaper. Joe grew up listening to big band music in a nation still recovering from the great depression and war. He was raised by his mother after her divorce from his father. His mother eventually remarried, and Joe would spend time with his stepfather and stepbrother hunting and fishing in the area. On one trip he saved his sister’s life by jumping into the lake after she had fallen out of the boat that they were in. He kept her above water until he was able to swim back and throw her into the boat.
Joe, with his wavy strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes, worked his way through St Catherine’s High School; cleaning up after school and polishing the floors during Christmas and Easter breaks to help pay tuition. He played the trumpet in the high school band and even went to Washington D.C. to perform. After graduating from St. Catherine’s at 18, and receiving a graduation gift of luggage from his mother, Joe boarded a four radial engined DC6 and flew to California where he joined his uncles working for Puritan Bakery in Santa Monica. He didn’t know it at the time, but the father of his future daughter-in-law had also worked at Puritan.
Joe met Helen Cassinelli at a square dance and was smitten. Knowing that she was a librarian, he went looking for her at various libraries in the South Bay to ask her out. They married in 1960 and were proud to have been the first wedding celebrated at the new St. James Church; so new that the church doors had not yet been installed. They had been married for just over 50 years when Helen passed in July of 2010. Sometime in late 1961 or early ’62, Joe was drafted in the Army to serve in Vietnam. He was rated 1A and was ready to serve, until the Army found out that his wife was pregnant with their first child and sent him home.
In 1967, Joe and Helen sold their single family home on Hawkins Avenue in Redondo Beach, packed up their two boys, and moved back to Racine. They lived in an apartment near the quarry where he had so much fun as a child. While in Wisconsin, he worked for Jacobsen Lawnmower as a machinist. The relocation experiment did not last long, and the family headed back to Southern California in their 1966 VW bus and 1963 Chevy Impala on New Year’s Day during a snow storm.
Back in California, Joe returned to his job at Puritan Bakery and stayed there for more than 40-years. During that time, he helped with the move of the bakery from Santa Monica to Carson and designed most of the layout of the bakery using his natural mechanical instincts. He knew the right combinations of gluten to flour ratios needed to make good bread, and he was responsible for creating the bread and bun recipes still used by the bakery for various companies including the secret In-N-Out bun recipe, that made Puritan Bakery as successful as it is today. It wasn’t unusual for a trip to In-N-Out to include an evaluation of the buns (color, firmness, taste) and he could tell you the chemical reason why it was or wasn’t up to par. He eventually rose through the ranks to become General Manager of the bakery.
Having attended classes at El Camino College, Joe always valued education and made sacrifices to put both children through Catholic grade and high school, as well as Cal State Long Beach. He was a natural athlete, playing CYO baseball and bowling with his father-in-law in South Bay leagues. His son describes his athletic prowess this way: “I came home from college one day, needing to blow off some steam, and told Dad that I was going down to the Alpine Village batting cages. This time Dad said he wanted to go along. I was surprised and warily said ok, as Dad hadn’t picked up a bat in over a decade. We drove down, got our tokens, rented a bat for Dad and headed over to the pitching machines. I was coaching him on how to bat, while he entirely dismissed my tips. I got into the 80mph cage where I normally get loose and Dad got into the 70mph cage next to me, still wearing his collared shirt, slacks, and leather shoes from work. I watched as he read the instructions on the control panel, took his reading glasses off, set them on top of the controller, put the token in, and set up in the batter’s box. The first pitch came and he stroked a line drive back up the middle, then it was nothing but the sound of the aluminum bat pinging as he hit all line drives until finally getting tired near the end of the session. I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. Considering his age, lack of prep and training, it was the greatest batting exhibition I had ever seen.”
Joe enjoyed the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This love probably started with his honeymoon in Yosemite, when he and Helen drove her VW Beetle into the wondrous valley to Curry Village. That love grew through the years with his many adventures in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The family enjoyed many camping trips together with nearly every outing having either an epic story of roadside breakdowns or memorable moments, such as a massive butterfly migration near Lassen National Park. Joe also enjoyed flying and would join his son and others flying light aircraft all over Southern California. Before he was married, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot. The Army recruiter could not guarantee that he would go to pilot school so, as he put it, “I pushed the enlistment papers back and went and got married.”
Joe was a dedicated grandfather, attending endless soccer and baseball games, concerts, and scouting events. He was a devoted husband, a loving father, and a good friend. After battling a variety of ailments later in life, Joe passed away in his home on May 14, 2023 at the age of 84 surrounded by his family. He is survived by his two sons Joseph and Michael, daughters-in-law Cindy and Celene, six grandchildren, Eric, Paul, Juliana, Jessica, Nathanael, and Finnian, and two great-grandchildren, Anastasia, and Valentina. Because Joe was the first born of the first born, he is also survived by his Uncle Philip. There was a time in his family when five generations were alive at the same time.
Joe loved to dance and was a devout Catholic. He prayed the rosary daily for most of his life. He enjoyed his daily walks and talking with his neighbors. He had a vibrant personality, a unique laugh, and will be missed by all who truly knew him.
Rosary Recitation will be on Thursday, May 25 at 6:30 pm at St. James Church in Redondo Beach.
Celebration of Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday, May 26 @ 1:30 pm at St. James Church in Redondo Beach.
Interment will be at Green Hills Memorial Park immediately follow the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to St. Jude’s or City of Hope or the charity of your choice in Joe’s name.