Joseph J. Sgroi Sr., 83, barbershop owner

May 17, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Joseph J. Sgroi Sr., who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and who for nearly 50 years barbered the heads of Dundalk, died of cancer Tuesday at his home on Cedar Lane on Baltimore County's east side. He was 83.

From 1947 to 1995, Mr. Sgroi owned Joe's Barber Shop at 7177 Holabird Ave.

"My dad had three barber chairs, and they always seemed filled with steel workers from Bethlehem Steel getting flattops," said Joseph Sgroi Jr. of Roanoke, Va. "He always chased me around, trying to give me a flattop, but I successfully avoided that attempt."

Among Mr. Sgroi's customers were the three D'Anna brothers, founders of Mars Super Markets, which were named after a wartime housing development and the Mars Flying Boat, a seaplane built at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant.

"You saw everybody in his barbershop," said Rudy Sacchetti, a retired metallurgist in Dundalk who got his hair cut for 45 years at Joe's. "He always cut it like I liked it. I think I paid $6 per haircut when he closed down."

Mr. Sgroi, whose parents immigrated from Sicily, was born and raised in Highlandtown. He had eight brothers and sisters and was a graduate of St. Elizabeth's parochial school. He also attended Polytechnic Institute, where he played soccer and baseball.

He left high school after the 10th grade, worked in local shipyards and began learning barbering. In 1939, he married Agnes Pyjanowski, a union that lasted 59 years until her death in 1999.

After World War II began, Mr. Sgroi joined the Army and served with the 6th Armored Division. He was a private and a tank machine gunner during the Battle of the Bulge.

Mr. Sgroi's tank was one of the first American armored units to punch into Germany in 1945 as part of the allied offensive that signaled the end of the war in Europe was near.

After the war, he returned home and worked in local shipyards until 1947. He then bought the barbershop in which he spent the rest of his working life.

"He started with three chairs, remodeled the place in the 1960s and dropped down to two, and then had just one in the 1980s," Joseph Sgroi Jr. said.

Mr. Sgroi later sold his shop, but his daughter, Joann Peeples of Baltimore, cuts hair for a living at a shop on Wise Avenue.

Though Mr. Sgroi enjoyed gardening, his enduring passions were baseball and the Orioles.

"One of the everlasting memories of my father is walking into our house and seeing him with his cigarettes and watching the Orioles on television," Joseph Sgroi Jr. said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today at Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, 6736 Youngstown Ave. in Dundalk. Interment will be at Holy Rosary Cemetery.

Mr. Sgroi also is survived by another son, Richard Sgroi of Dundalk; three sisters, Sadie Jones, Mary Mariuci and Frances Pitz, all of Baltimore; two brothers, Anthony and John Sgroi, both of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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