Joseph (“Dody”) N. Cugini, 89, of Westerly passed away on June 15, 2019 following a brief illness. Born in 1930 in Westerly to Daniel and Josephine Cugini, Joe was a graduate of the Immaculate Conception School - class of 1945 A 1948 Westerly High School graduate, he was the Class Marshal and played on the undefeated 1948 state championship basketball team under Coach James Federico.
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He enlisted in the US Air Force in November of 1950 during the Korean War. While in the Air Force he earned the rank of Staff Sergeant and served in North Africa as a radar controller. He was a graduate of Bryant College. Following college, he worked for the Bradford Dying Association in their time study department.
On April 13, 1959 he became the General Manager of the Westerly Community Credit Union. During Joe’s 41 years at WCCU, he served as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board. In addition to his responsibilities at the local level, he also was elected to the highest office in the Credit Union movement and held several national and international offices. They included President of the Rhode Island Credit Union League, Chairman of the Credit Union National Association, and President of the World Council of Credit Unions. Additionally, he was a member of the Federal Reserve Advisory Board. One of his proudest accomplishments of his community involvement included founding the WCCU Holiday Basketball tournament in 1984 at the Westerly High School.
He traveled around the world three times through his Credit Union involvement, but always said his hometown of Westerly was his favorite place. The greatest pride in his life was living in our town surrounded by his family and friends. Some of his many community positions included Treasurer of the Westerly Tercentenary, President of the Westerly FOPA, a member of the Future Needs Committee of the Westerly Fire District, a board member of the Westerly Chamber of Commerce, and as the Chairman of the Vision 20/20 school building committee to create a new high school campus and build a new Westerly Middle School where the school’s Library/Media Center bears his name. He most recently served as an active member of the Westerly 350th Anniversary Committee.
He had also been honored as the 1994 Westerly High School commencement speaker, an inductee to the Credit Unions Executive Society Hall of Fame, the 2000 Dante Society Man of the Year, the recipient of the Westerly YMCA Service to Youth Award, the Key award winner for the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Chamber’s Man Of The Year, and as the Grand Marshal of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade along with his wife, Betty. Most recently he was named as one of Westerly Armory’s Honored Citizens in April.
One of the highlights of his life was hosting the Thursday morning show on WBLQ radio from 7-9 each week. His dedication to bringing the news and information to his local radio family kept him going long after his retirement. Joe embodied the lyrics of his weekly theme song sung by Bing Crosby and truly loved all the “dear hearts and gentle people” who live here in his hometown. Joe lived by the advice he shared with his listeners each week for the past two decades as he closed his program; “Life is precious, Live it well.”
Joe is survived by his high school sweetheart Betty Cugini, married for 63 years along with his children, daughter Betty-Jo (Stephen Greene) of Westerly and son David Joseph (Denise Ruddy) of Boxford, MA, and his three grandchildren Christopher Koretski, Katherine Koretski, and Finley Cugini. He also leaves several nieces, nephews and a large extended family. He was predeceased by his parents and three siblings; Alfred (Penita), Lillian (Pat) Falcone and Rudolph (Marian).
Joe’s family would like to thank his local Doctors, the Doctors, Nurses, and staff of the Westerly Hospital and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for the extraordinary care he was given over the years and recently. The family also extends appreciation to Dr. Pam Connors for her level of caring as a family friend and as his doctor.
The family will greet relatives and friends on Tuesday, June 18 from 4:00pm - 7:00 pm at Gaffney-Dolan Funeral Home, 59 Spruce Street, Westerly. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint Clare Church, Crandall Avenue in Westerly on Wednesday, June 19 at 10:00 am. There will be no procession from the funeral home to the church. Interment with Full Military Honors will follow at River Bend Cemetery in Westerly. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joe’s memory may be made to the Joseph N. Cugini WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament Fund c/o Westerly Community Credit Union - 122 Granite Street, Westerly, RI 02891 or to The Westerly Hospital Foundation - 25 Wells Street, Westerly, RI 02891. For online condolences please visit www.gaffneydolanfuneralhome.com