Family History

Joe Acocella's family has a long history in Harrison that dates back over seventy years. His grandfather, Angelo Acocella purchased one of the first pieces of property on what was then called Nanny Goat Hill, which later became Shelton Street. The land was primarily used for his expansive garden. The property today is located in the heart of the Brentwood section of Harrison. Angelo's son, Pete Acocella married soon after and built his home on a part of that property. Pete owned a construction company in Harrison and was a long standing member of the Knights of Columbus. In 1963, Joe's father, Joe Acocella Sr., along with his other brother Pat Acocella, opened a garden center on Mamaroneck Avenue, in Harrison, N.Y., called Acorn Farms, which is still family owned to this day. In 1972, Joe's grandfather Angelo, Uncle Pete and father Joe Sr., built his home on the remaining portion of the garden property located on Shelton Street. Joe Sr. began working for the Town/Village of Harrison Sanitation Department where he retired eight years ago after many dedicated years of service. Joe Sr. is also a long standing member of the Knights of Columbus as well as the Cabot Club.

Early Life

Joe Acocella Jr. was born on July 14th, 1981 and is the youngest of four children. Joe was born with Lumbar Sacral Agenesis which led to both of his legs being amputated at the tender age of three. Although he was born with a disability, he never let it dictate his life. Joe was taught from an early age by his family members that even though he was in a wheelchair, he could stand up for what he believed in not only for himself but for others as well. Joe's mother, Marie Acocella, played a crucial role in his life. Her biggest battle at that time was to have Joe attend Harrison's public schools. Many people didn't believe this would be possible but Marie never gave up. Because of her endless devotion and pursuit of normalcy for Joe, Marie won her fight and Joe started his elementary studies at Harrison Ave School. Due to handicap accessibility restrictions, Joe moved to the Purchase Elementary School at the start of fourth grade in 1991. He finished his elementary school career here in 1993. Sadly, he did it without his mother present; she passed away from heart complications in June of 1992. Joe realized it was up to him to continue the work his mother started and to expand on what she taught him.

Public Service

Joe began getting involved in student government during his middle school years. By the time he was a senior in high school, Joe had been elected Student Body President four times. It was during his senior year of high school that Joe received a kidney transplant from an unknown donor. This was most definitely due to his condition. Joe was out of the hospital in a weeks time and was back to school within two weeks. His doctor's were ecstatic at how quickly Joe's new kidney responded.

After he graduated from Harrison schools in June of 2000, he continued his studies at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. During that time, he also worked for the Harrison Recreation Department advocating for infrastructure changes including working to keep more summer and after school programs open for the children of Harrison.

After 9/11, Joe felt a deep appreciation for firefighters and took on the challenge of becoming one himself. He became a volunteer firefighter for the Harrison Fire Department responding to emergency calls throughout the town.

In the spring of 2002, Joe was chosen by the Fordham Political Science Department to take part in a semester long program studying U.S. government in Washington, D.C. While on his internship, he met with members of three Presidential administrations, numerous state Governors, distinguished members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices. During his off hours of studies, he interned for Governor George E. Pataki in the New York State Office of Federal Affairs, researching federal legislation. Joe returned from Washington in June of 2003 and was selected by the office of the Fordham University President to serve as an Ambassador for the school. During his term as Ambassador, Joe met with parents and potential students from all over the country. They discussed what Fordham was looking for in a student and what students were looking for in a University. He also met frequently with Fordham engineers, security personnel and office of disability services to address major handicap restrictions on the campus grounds.

In May of 2004, Joe graduated from Fordham University, majoring in Political Science. After returning home to his hometown, Joe inquired about several prominent employment opportunities. Joe was offered a position working for the Harrison Police Department in the records division. Right out of the gate, Joe researched and implemented a new software program which currently handles the departments scheduling needs. His tenure at the Harrison Police Department was invaluable not only to its members but to the community as a whole. Joe formed long lasting relationships with many of the police officers and civilian personnel.

In May of 2005, Joe continued his public service career by becoming the youngest member elected to the Harrison Board of Education. During his tenure on the Board, Joe made it his number one priority to open doors to all students despite their circumstances. His unwavering commitment to the residents of Harrison and betterment of the community is consistent with his record of public service.

In November of 2007, Joe was elected the youngest Town Clerk in the State of New York. Joe has committed his work to not only helping his own constituents but broadening his desire to help others throughout the world. After taking office in January of 2008, Joe communicated with U.S. soldiers currently serving in the Middle East to help boost their morale. An avid animal supporter, Joe worked with the local animal shelters to stop the cruel practice of puppy mills. Joe has travelled all over New York State to speak at school's and Children's Hospitals to tell his life story. Joe believed that if he told enough people how he overcame his personal obstacles his words would make a difference in people's lives. Joe truly cared about people, especially children and he had an unbelievable ability to bring everyone together no matter the differences.

An organ recipient himself, Joe, was an advocate for organ donation and hosted several blood drive's with the Red Cross. Joe also worked closely with New York Organ Donor Network to get more organ donor registries at drives. Joe was a Champion for Donate Life America, an organization that educates individuals about organ donation, including registry information.

In December of 2008, Joe received the Chamber of Commerce, "Person of the Year Award." New York State Assemblymen Adam Bradley and Greg Ball issued proclamations on behalf of New York State. Westchester County Legislator Martin Rogowsky proclaimed December 15th, "Joseph Acocella Jr. Day" in Westchester County.

In May of '08, Joe received the NYS Assembly Excelsior Award for Excellence in Albany for his work on organ & tissue donation awareness.

Joe was a member of the Elks Club and Rotary International.

As Harrison Town Clerk, Joe made his office accessible to every resident in the community. Joe was known to make house calls and had office hours at night and on weekends. Joe really transformed the Town Clerk's office and brought in modern technology and vast computer upgrades. In 2010, The Harrison Dog Park was the last major project Joe pioneered and saw through to fruition. An avid animal lover, Joe had the foresight to see how he could make the Town of Harrison better at all times. Constant improvement and dedication to his constituents is what drove Joe to stop at nothing to make the impossible, possible. Joe received primarily private donations to help set the dog park up never failing to keep the Harrison Tax-payers in mind.

Unfortunately, during 2011, Joe's health started to worsen and he desperately needed a second kidney transplant. On August, 8th, 2011, Joseph M. Acocella Jr., passed away at the age of thirty. The Acocella family is determined to see Joe's work continued under the Joseph M. Acocella Jr. Memorial Fund. Joe's mission in life will never be forgotten especially by the countless citizens and friends he forever touched throughout the years. The Acocella family will continue his legacy in Joe's honor in the same way that Joe lived his life, fearless and with grace.

The Town of Harrison posthumously gave Joe the citizen of the year award in October of 2011 at The Great to Live in Harrison Parade. This award was offered to Joe in the past but he declined.

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