Almost as much of a historic landmark, as the building he once owned, Joseph “Joe” Alvise Viani, Jr., original owner of Joe’s Tavern passed away on Tuesday, March 22 at about the same time that the area received a jolting earthquake. It is yet to be confirmed if the two incidents were connected.
A Mineral County Serpent alumnus from the class of 1952, Viani would graduate high school, attend UNR and later enter into the U.S. Army.
Receiving a letter from the Army, Viani’s service to his country was cut short but unknown to Viani, his life was just beginning when he returned and met Hazel Moss.
The two were united in marriage on June 25 in a ceremony conducted by Justice of the Peace Tom McKenzie. The couple left shortly after the reception to honeymoon in Carson City and Lake Tahoe. Together, the couple would raise her four children and have three of their own.
Stories about Joe’s Tavern are plenty. Anyone who has visited the local establishment can tell you about the good ol’ days and that of Viani, himself.
Patrons of Joe’s Tavern remember Viani for his “Thursday Night Spaghetti Feeds” but he was known for more than just his generosity of feeding and supporting the community. Others remember Viani in stories such as:
“Joe was very intimidating. But always had a smile for me and “how are you doing, Suzie”. I was cocktail waitressing the El Capitan’s prime rib room, back in maybe 91. It was reserved one night for a bunch of Hawthorne “big times”. Joe, Dominic Mezzetta, etc. I remember being so nervous since I didn’t want to get the orders mixed up and it was going to be an all night thing, filled with snifters of brandy and whiskey. The men were giving me a little bit of a hard time now and then. Joe called me over and said, “You ok?” Don’t worry about them. You’re doing great and let me tip you now while I still remember.” Handed me a nice fat tip (which no one else did)…all the while with a big cigar hanging out of his mouth.”
Bill Bray remembers Viani on the golf course; “I remember playing golf with Joe all the time in high school. One time he was losing some money form me and he was frustrated, he hit a bad shot and then slammed his club down then he threw his club, it landed in a tree and he really cursed up a storm. He turned to me and very quietly asked if I could climb the tree and get his club. He always was great to me, even in losing his money to me. Not so nice to his clubs on bad golf days.”
A lover of sports, and one time member of the UNR football tem, Viani also assisted with the boxing team and played basketball while in college. His love of sports was carried onto his family. Granddaughter Jessica Hughes recalls, “Grandpa was so proud of me when I made the Rockets basketball team, he bought me my first pair of Nike’s from Gun and Tackle.”
While Shelley Tweedy fondly remembers, “For the group I grew up with: Nancy; Gina; Lonnie and Dody, our history with Joe and Joe’s Tavern, started long before we were 21. He was such an activist in supporting all of our activities from high school sports to our girls’ softball team, that we did countless fundraisers there. He loved his town and it’s people. While he had the tavern, I don’t think he ever turned us down when we needed to have an event or raise money. He was a blessing to us. He supported all of our activities and as I grew up, it became the place where friends met.”
His family knew a different side of Viani. One of holding Christmas Eve together, as a whole family, within the walls of Joe’s Tavern where it became a tradition of food, song and laughter. Thanksgiving would be spent giving back to the community, no one was ever turned away from a meal and they surely didn’t leave hungry.
“Joe always read the Reno Gazette Journal. While going to Reno to take him to the doctor he would always take the newspaper with us, then throw it out the window as he was done reading it page by page and I would day, “Dad, don’t litter!” This reply would be, “Paula, if there’s a hitchhiker out there they need something to wipe their @$% with,” his daughter, Paula Viani-Reed affectionately remembers.
It seems as though Viani had a fondness for throwing items out car windows, as granddaughter Amber Eliades tells the story, “I remember I got to stay with them for a couple weeks one summer. So many shenanigans. But the one that sticks out is when grandma and grandpa were driving me to meet my mom in Winnemucca and we grabbed a couple milkshakes before we left Hawthorne. After awhile, the milkshakes started to melt so Gramps opened the window and stuck the cup out the window and drained his milkshake. He told me to go ahead and do the same. Well, mine wasn’t as smooth. The melted milkshake flew right back in the car all over Nona. He was laughing so hard while she was screaming at him.”
Viani’s family understood his love, even in some trying situations. Mandee White told the story, “I remember being a little girl and my mom bartending at Joe’s. One time, as a wee little girl, some friends and I snuck into the preschool and played with all the pretty dresses. A few girls messed with some matches and ended up burning the preschool down. As the fire trucks were coming, my grandpa was with them. He had to come pick me up and OMG he whooped my butt so hard. I will never forget my “Grandpa Joe”.
As age began to creep up on Hazel and Joe, the two would be spotted in the nursing home, holding hands in their recliners, sometimes sleeping but spending each day together, even though his “MNJOE” truck would be illegally parked.
Though he is gone – the memories will live on.
The funeral for Viani was held on Monday, March 27 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. He was laid to rest in the Hawthorne Cemetery.