Joseph B. Gonsalves died unexpectedly Dec. 11 at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. He was 77.

Joe, as he was known, was the oldest son of Joseph and Evelyn (Silvia) Gonsalves. Born in Oak Bluffs at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, he grew up in the neighborhood of Pine street and Midland avenue, where his large extended family resided. He attended Tisbury School. After graduation he joined the Navy. He was in company 455 and 456 where he served on the USS Sumner in the Korean War and traveled around the world.

He married Mildred Rocker in 1962. They and their three young daughters lived on Lobsterville Road in Aquinnah. Joe loved to have family and friends over for cookouts during the summer months. His nieces and nephews would come up on weekends to enjoy the beach. On Sundays he would load them into his boat and cruise Chilmark pond.

While living in Aquinnah, he worked as a police officer at night and went scalloping with his wife and father in law, Norman Smalley, during the day. He also did plumbing and heating work with the late Bill Ryan.

Joe and his family lost everything to a house fire on a cold January night. He managed to get his wife and kids out safely.

Joe and Mildred then bought a house in Vineyard Haven on Summer street. He was so happy to be in the family neighborhood.

He and Mildred then had three sons. Their house was always filled with children.

Joe loved to host parties, and was always laughing and joking. He was often the life of the party. He loved to dance, go bowling and deer hunting. He would invite his friends from Mashpee over to hunt the woods of Chilmark and Aquinnah. He was a devoted Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox fan.

Joe was a hard-working man, often holding down two jobs to provide for his family. Among his many jobs, he was a chef with his wife and father at the Dunes restaurant (now the Winnetu) in Katama and the Tisbury Inn (now Zephrus); he worked for his uncle Sonny (T.M. Silvia) as a plumber’s assistant and later started his own plumbing and heating business employing his sons; he was manager and bartender at the VFW Post 9261 (where he remained a member); he was a volunteer firefighter for the town of Tisbury; he was a Tisbury police officer and retired as a sergeant from the Aquinnah police department; he worked as a jail keeper at the Duke’s County jail and was a deputy sheriff; he was a member of the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs and New Bedford and both the American Legion and VFW of New Bedford and Fairhaven.

He was passionate about spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He and Mildred adopted and raised Miguel and Lindsey Gonsalves. He loved to roughhouse with the boys and treated the girls like little princesses. To all of them he was “papa.”

He was predeceased by his former wife, Mildred, son Anthony Gonsalves and daughter Evelyn Larkin.

He is survived by his brother Bernard Gonsalves of Miami and sister Doris and family of Fairhaven; daughter Margaret Oliveira and her husband David and daughter Alicia; Evelyn Larkin’s husband, Joe, and their sons, John and Phillip of Lynn; daughter Yvette Turner and her husband, Mark, and their children, Sarah, Mark and Christian; son Joseph and his wife, Rosalind, and their children, Jordan, Hannah and Matthew; son Anthony’s children, Nicholas of Harwich and Carly Rose of New Bedford; son John and his children, Amanda and Ryan; and his companion, Susan Baker of Fairhaven.

His funeral mass was celebrated on Friday, Dec. 14, followed by interment in the Oak Grove Cemetery on State Road in Vineyard Haven, with full military honors by the Veterans of Martha’s Vineyard. An online guestbook is available at