They would descend upon that gas station like an Apache raiding party. The three of them would usually announce their presence by jumping on the black air hose about fifty times each and the sudden loud and repeated clanging of that bell would startle the hell out of me. Then they’d come crashing through the front door and start rampaging all through the station. One would head for the tool bench, another would go down in the pit and the third would start pressing keys on the cash register while all three would beg me to let them wait on the next car that pulled in.
They were the Constantine brothers, Matt, Anthony and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant Joe. They had an older sister and I think a younger brother but it was always these three who showed up together. Joe was the oldest of the trio. They were the children of Joe Constantine and his wife Gilda and Gilda was the sister of Joe Montuoro, who was my boss and the owner of Montuoro’s Sunoco Station. Joe and Gilda’s mother lived in the house next to the gas station so every time the Constantine’s came to visit her, they’d make my dinner-time and weekend work shifts at the station a bit more interesting and challenging.
As crazy as they were, I could tell even way back then that these guys had a curiosity about everything that would serve them well in whatever field of endeavor they chose. They asked a ton of questions, the majority of which I could not answer but they kept asking anyway. The boy’s dad was a local heating and cooling contractor (Joe’s Refrigeration) and was also a pretty skilled carpenter who had built the family home up on Tremont Avenue. He made sure each of his boys came to work with him and he taught them all how to do whatever they did the right way.
While still in his teens, Joe Jr. was constantly on job sites with Joe Sr. which gave him the opportunity to work with all sorts of different tradesman. He took a real interest in carpentry and by “real” interest I mean that what really excited him most were jobs that required a huge amount of thought, creativity and detail. The more difficult the spec the more young Joe enjoyed the challenge and he told his parents, he wanted to start his own business. They encouraged him to go to school before he did so and get some business training and he followed their advice and got an associates degree in construction technology from Fulton Montgomery Community College. But it wasn’t the degree he got there that became the key to his subsequent success as an independent builder and carpenter. It was instead a girl he met there named Jules Tomkins. She was a computer whiz with a natural talent for marketing and business and when she became Mrs. Joseph Constantine and business manager, Constantine Builders took off.
Now during all this time I had completely lost track of the Constantine brothers because I was busy raising my own family and building a career. And then one day someone asked me if I had seen the house Joe isabel was having built up where the old Henrietta Heights playground used to be. I had not, so I took a ride up there. The place was massive and though perhaps a bit too ostentatious for that neighborhood, a very impressive structure none-the-less and a true challenge for any builder. When I found out that the home was being built by Joe Constantine Jr. I was shocked because I had no idea the kid who used to jump up and down on that gas station bell was building anything at all, much less jaw-dropping homes…
My complete birthday post for Joe Constantine Jr. will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.
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