The Charles County community is in mourning after a local business man with a “heart of gold” died last week.
Iossif Mario Gressis, fondly known as “Joe,” owner of Lucianna’s Steakhouse, Restaurant & Bar, OBO Pizza and Galazio Restaurant, died unexpectedly on Sept. 7 at the age of 45.
“My baby had a heart of gold and was a good man,” Asimina L. Gressis, Joe’s mom, said of her son.
A post on Asimina’s Facebook page stated that her son had complained of chest pains earlier on the day of his death, but an official cause of death has not yet been determined.
Over the weekend, family and friends took to Facebook to share memories and photos of stories of a man that had become a pillar of the community.
“He taught me to be a man, mentored me into the man I am, and believed in me and my dream of serving when nobody else did,” Nick Cammaroto, who currently lives in Savannah, Ga., who identified himself as Joe’s godson, said.
Social media was filled of photos and stories characterizing Gressis as a kind person with a love of jokes and community.
Gressis was famous for providing free meals for Thanksgiving at the Galazio Restaurant & Bar free of charge.
When interviewed in 2015 for an article in the Maryland Independent about the event, Gressis said, “You should go beyond to help others.”
Gressis never forced his employees to work the day, but some volunteered to help at the event.
“There’s a lot of people forced to work on Thanksgiving because so many stores are open. ... Those workers can come for a family atmosphere,” he said in 2015.
Judy Taylor of Welcome had gone to Gressis’s restaurants several times because she needed help with starting her own business, Judy’s Food Express & Catering. Gressis, Taylor said, didn’t hesitate to help her.
“I approached Joe and before I could get everything out he said ‘give me the paper,’” Taylor said.
Taylor added that Gressis had gotten his start with a hot dog cart, and was more than happy to help her with any questions she had. That wasn’t the end of his kindness.
According to Taylor, if Gressis found out that diners were there because of a funeral, he would provide their food free of charge.
In recognition of his kindness, Charles County commissioners voted unanimously to mark the fourth Thursday in November as Joe Gressis Day.
Commissioner President Reuben Collins II (D) said that the proclamation would “remind us not only of Joe, but that one man in the community could inspire and uplift us.”