Obituary of Mr. Joseph Divito
April 24, 2021
Dr. Joseph DiVito, Jr. died on April 24, 2021 at home in New York City from complications of pancreatic cancer at the age of 60. Making it to 60 was an important accomplishment for Joe and anyone who spoke to him for his birthday knew how pleased he was to make it to 60 on February 1, 2021. Joe is survived by Richard Froehlich, his husband and partner of 27 years as well as a large family. Joe cherished his family and is also survived by his brother Thomas DiVito, in addition to a slew of in-laws (Alan and Jodi Cohn, Joann Cohn, Shari and Martin Cohn-Simmen, Vivien and Tom Barcia, Charles and Gail Froehlich, Steven and Linda Froehlich, Barry and Deborah Cohn, Jennifer and Colin Marsh), nieces (Jennifer Cohen, Lindsay Cohen, Betty Cohn, Hannah Cohn-Simmen and Jocelyn Cohn), nephews (in practice) and partners, as applicable (Michael Barcia, Eric and Athena Froehlich, Sam Cohn and Joey Martin, Andrew and Christina Froehlich, Anthony Ciranello and Tim O'Loughlin, David and Vanessa Barcia, Adam and Ariel Cohn, Jesse and Rah Goldberg, Michael Cohen and Isaac Froehlich), grand-nieces (Makenna Barcia, Anna-Cate Froehlich, Chelsea Grace Froehlich) and grand-nephew (Harrison Barcia) as well as many cousins (including a few that he thought of Aunts and Uncles: (Audrey and Charlie Falk, Bernice and Bob Szita). Some are listed here but he loved them all and they were very precious to him.
Joe was a practicing clinical radiologist and was a proud graduate of the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University. He got his BA from Pace University. A scholarship fund in honor of Joe has been created by Rich at Downstate and contributions to the fund in lieu of flowers or other tributes are appreciated. The link to the fund is as follows: https://www.downstate.edu/giving/scholarships/memorial-donations.html.
Joe joined the faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Radiology department in 1993 and was promoted over time to the position of Professor of Radiology & Obstetrics and Gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine & Montefiore Medical Center. Joe was the winner of the Leo Davidoff Society of The Albert Einstein College of Medicine Award in May 2006 for outstanding achievement in teaching medical students and received the Harold G. Jacobson Award for the Outstanding Teacher in the Montefiore Department of Radiology in May 2011.
Teaching was a passion for Joe, as shown by the following words he wrote in support for his promotion to full Professor: "I learned that first students must be given a strong background of basic facts and concepts. As they develop their own fund of knowledge, we must teach them problem solving skills and encourage their critical thinking, which are both essential to a physician." Joe added: "My hidden, yet overriding goal is to share my excitement and unqualified awe of the human body with my students and, with any luck, inspire similar enthusiasm and insight. I hope to create an impact so that some will want to teach as well."
Physical and health challenges were a constant part of Joe's life after he suffered a stroke from toxoplasmosis brain lesions in 1998 that left him partially paralyzed and with limited use of his left side. Joe was diagnosed with AIDS at that point but benefited from the amazing science that had created treatments for HIV/AIDS by 1998. He was committed to protecting Rich and they maintained serodiscordance by using safe sex methods. The early medications were physically harsh and Joe worked hard to both recover from the stroke and to fight AIDS. After a period of disability, he was able to return to working on a part time status. But it is hard to minimize how hard he struggled in daily life and he had some falls and broken bones as a result of these challenges.
Joe focused on both his clinical radiology practice, teaching and research work on a variety of cancer tumor and treatment studies. His radiology specialty included abdominal and gynecologic oncology and he participated as the senior member of the radiology department in biweekly gynecologic oncology and hepatobiliary oncology tumor boards until March of this year. His understanding of cancer made his diagnosis in July 2019 of metastatic pancreatic cancer more devastating. He clearly understood that the odds of survival were poor. Unfortunately, Joe's earlier HIV diagnosis made him ineligible for various pancreatic cancer drug trials. Nevertheless, Joe had hoped that he would have durable success with the few available treatments until better treatment would come along.
Joe's and Rich's love for each other was profound and complete. Joe responded to a Village Voice personal ad placed by Rich and they met on May 4, 1994 at a quaint restaurant in Greenwich Village named Home. They had instant chemistry and moved in together within weeks of that first date. Joe fully supported Rich's work and extra activities and attended every Stonewall Chorale concert. Joe would drive Rich to Columbia for his morning class in the fall and meet up on Morningside Heights for dinner after Rich's evening class in the winter. Joe handled much of their homelife while Rich planned their extensive travels and visits with family and friends. They maintained an incredibly strong bond and Rich was able to honor Joe's request that he die at home at the end of his battle with cancer. They managed the isolation of Covid with as much as grace and patience as possible.
Joe and Rich often traveled to see family friends and historical sites. British Royal history was a particular joy and then later Joe also enjoyed going to American presidential libraries and related sites, including a few marathon travels throughout America to go to sites for each President up to Barack Obama. The same person who reveled in visiting Buckingham Palace and Chinon Castle also loved attending the Minnesota State Fair on an annual basis to meet up with the Golden Girls and to eat both Pronto Pups as well as Walleye fish filet. Joe was visibly moved with funeral of Prince Phillip held a week before his own death.
It was important to Joe that he not be forgotten. Through the students, residents and fellows he taught, the academic research that he authored and the loving memories of his smile, presence and kindness to his family, friends and colleagues he will be remembered and honored.
A funeral will be held on Thursday at 3 at Greenwich Village Funeral Home. Unfortunately there are limited access due to Covid but there will be a zoom broadcast of the funeral. Interested people should reach out to Rich.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts please consider supporting Joe's scholarship fund mentioned above that will also honor his memory or perhaps support any charity that provides meals to the needy as Joe was a large supporter of such charitable efforts.
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RIP Joe. Since we were young you have always been important to me. I will miss you. Condolences to Rich, family, and friends.
Posted by: Diane Dietrich - Ocoee, FL - April 28, 2021
I adored Joe Di Vito.
Joe and I met, sort of, back in 2011. He sent me a beautiful Facebook message about my biography of Vito Russo. Then followed seven years of Facebook tag: occasional messages, commenting on each other's posts, etc. But never an in-person meet, though we often raised the possibility.
Finally, in June 2018, we got together for lunch at an Upper West Side diner. During three hours of conversation that ranged from Eleanor Roosevelt to Robert Moses to Chinon to Katharine Hepburn to NYC gay history, there weren't many topics we left untouched. I left the restaurant astonished that Joe and I had only JUST MET. He felt like someone I'd known for decades.
We decided to bring in the husbands. Rich and Michael joined us for dinner. Michael and I had a ball. The rapport among the four of us was just as freewheeling and fun as it had been with Joe and me by ourselves. That led to more raucous dinners, followed by Zoom happy hours once COVID hit. We had a Zoom scheduled for as recently as a month ago, but Joe was too frail by then. He also had stopped answering Facebook messages, and I knew what that meant. My heart sank.
I will miss Joe terribly, and I'm sorry that I didn't meet him far earlier. He was a textbook example of a "mensch." Most of all, my heart goes out to dearest Rich during this awful time.
Posted by: Michael Schiavi - New York, NY - April 28, 2021
Deepest condolences to you and family! RIP
Posted by: Carmen Martino - Broolkyn, NY - April 28, 2021
Joe and I were classmates in medical school, SUNY Downstate, class of 1988. I was always delighted when we had call together, I knew it would a dishy, hilarious night--in addition to knowing we had each other's backs on those overflowing wards at King's County Hospital. Joe was single then, and i had a lover who i adored, a New York actor who was already developing AIDS by the time we graduated. Joe was so kind, and one of the only people I shared our situation with in our class. My lover passed in 1991, thirty years ago this year, but I've never forgotten, still hold that love. And still hold Joe's kindness, his wit, and his support. RIP good man.
Posted by: Chris Beyrer - Baltimore, MD - May 4, 2021
I have known Dr DiVito since my training days as a fellow here at Montefiore in the 1990's. He was kind, gentle and attentive to all the trainees in the department of ob/gyn. He specialized in body images and had a keen interest in gynecologic pathology.
As a trainee, I would often stop by the radiology suite to show him films. Back then we were still using the viewing box and he would stop what he was doing and put up all the films, and look at them all one patient at a time with me and the residents who came with me.
He volunteered to be the anchor of the radiology representative for the gyn oncology tumor board, preparing slides and discuss them during presentation. He lectured to the fellows and residents at least every other month for all the years that I was here as a trainee and then attending physician.
There was not a fellow in the program who has not benefited from all the teaching that we received from Dr. DiVito.
When diagnosed with an inoperable pancreatic carcinoma, Dr DiVito started a regimen of chemotherapy. Yet he continued to dedicate his time and effort in preparing for our morning teaching conference and for our tumor board slides. The era of zoom conference allowed his omnipresence, while he battled this terrible disease.
My last conversation with him was about a month ago when he told me that he was still battling hard but he had to give up his passion of gyn tumor board. I knew that the time was coming. Several texts that I sent to him did not get any reply. Then the news came.
He was a giant in our training program. I shared the news with many other trainees who have reaped benefit from his presence. We are in the process of figuring out the best way to remember him in the division and the department .
Rest in peace Joe.
Posted by: Yi-Shin Kuo - New York, NY - May 5, 2021
Joe will forever be in our hearts and minds. He was one of the most kind, generous, funny, present and genuine human beings we have had the joy to have in our lives. We will carry many wonderful memories with us, and we love looking at all our photographs from "the old days". Sitting on the beach on Fire Island, with Joe reading a very thick medical tome, is a favorite for us. We loved all our wide-ranging conversations, which always included much laughter, even if the topics were serious. We will miss Joe deeply. We wish we had spent more time together in the years after we left NY, but we were always so happy to meet up with Joe and Rich in random AZ locations!
Posted by: Karen & Jim Carson - Tucson, AZ - May 10, 2021
I will forever carry so many sweet memories, laughs and smiles of my friendship with Joe. From pictures of the flowers in Chelsea to time with the Golden Girls to the Tiara he gave me for my wedding. Thank you Joe. Love Always.
Posted by: Tom Richardson - SAINT PAUL, MN - May 14, 2021
It's still hard to accept that our beautiful friend has passed. Kind, fun, sweet, caring and forgiving. Human goodness. My memories jumble, and range from breakfasts & lazy days at our beach house (with Joe taping Xrays to the balcony windows to work!), dance parties at the beach, at parties and even a couple times at the clubs, AND at Jazz Fest in Nawlins and then recently (before the pandemic) at weddings & 60th birthday parties. Joe was my kind of dancing partner, who enjoyed a good chat while dancing! Dancing & parties aside, I have many memories of heartfelt chats. After my husband and I had kids, he never failed to ask, "How are the boys?" I tried to avoid boring child-free friends, but Joe would keep nudging, gently. It was 1 of the million ways he had of saying: I see you & I care about you. We will miss you dearly, Joseph. You live on in our hearts forever.
Posted by: Pam Knight - Boston, MA - May 16, 2021