Joe Vecchio passed away in November 2020. He did his first haircut in Cwmbran in 1965 and was still keeping the men of Cwmbran trim and tidy at the aged of 73.
His family have gone into their photo albums and kindly shared some pics that show Joe’s character.
His business in Fairwater Shops changed ownership in 2017 to The Barber Shop but he couldn’t hang up his scissors. At aged 70 he semi-retired and as at his chair every Friday and Saturday.
Claudio, his son, told Cwmbran Life about his father, Giuseppe Vecchio, the man known and loved by his customers as Joe.
He said: “Although 73 seems like a ripe old age, dad was a young 73-year-old, very active and always had a project on in the house or the garden. He was also a strong man, and never wanted to give up work even when he sold the shop.
“Although known as Joe in Cwmbran, his name was Giuseppe Vecchio and all the Italians that knew him called him Peppo. I actually never heard anyone call him Giuseppe my whole life.”
“He was the oldest of three brothers born into poverty in a small rural upbringing in southern Italy. It was a tough upbringing. They had to grow most of their food, money was scarce and dad’s own father died when dad was only 15. His youngest brother Roddy is also in Cwmbran – Roddy’s hair salon in Old Cwmbran.
“Dad moved to Newport in 1965 at the age of 18. He came to work as a barber for his cousin Mike (who ran what is now Tino’s in Llanyrafon).
“There was already quite a lot of family in Newport. Dad came to live with his Uncle Vincenzo in Caple Crescent in Pill Newport. Dad’s uncle’s generation worked mainly in the steelworks in Llanwern.
“My mum is Luciana and I have two sisters, Franca and Nadia. Dad had six grandchildren, two girls and four boys.”
“Adored by his grandchildren”
“He was adored by his grandchildren and would spend many a Sunday dancing around the room with them after Sunday dinner which we had together every week. We are a close family and food was one of the things that brought us together every day. We would have dinner together as kids and a couple of times a week as we got older and moved out of the family home.
“He was a great dad and liked to joke, he had a silly side and loved to be in company. He was also preoccupied with providing for his family and keeping us secure. From his humble upbringing he went on to make a comfortable life here in Wales and made sure we didn’t go without.”
“Dad loved his home allotment. He spent every spare moment he had in the garden growing fruit and veg. This passion was born out of his upbringing where his family were self-sufficient, growing the veg to eat through the year. Food was one of dad’s real passions, he was a fantastic cook and made everything from pizzas to curries to cakes.
“He also had a passion for music and loved opera and classical music, particularly Neapolitan folk songs. He played the piano accordion and spent many Sunday afternoons listening to opera or the 60s Italian songs from his youth with a glass of wine.”
“An avid painter”
“Dad was also an avid painter in his youth. He used to paint in the shop in-between clients and on slower days. He had a canvas on the back of the cupboard door. He was actually featured in an article quite a few years back, it was either the argus or the local Torfaen paper, they did a piece on the painting barber. There are some press cuttings somewhere but I wouldn’t be able to dig them out now. Our family home has dad’s paintings on display in most rooms and they are also in the houses of all the extended family – he would give them as presents. He painted in oil and mainly landscapes.”
“He loved to visit home, Castelforte in Italy. Because of his commitment to the shop, he only ever went for two weeks at a time but he always dreamed of spending a few months there when he retired. He finally got the chance last year in not so perfect circumstances when he got stuck in Italy for five months because coronavirus was just taking hold. We had many summer holidays as a family in Italy, almost every year.”
“As I got older me and dad would sometimes go for a boys trip in the spring that revolved around eating good food and drinking wine. His brother Enzo is in Italy as well as many other cousins and friends. Even though dad loved being in Wales, he always missed Italy. We would go on family holidays to other places, Greece, Croatia, Portugal but deep-down dad always would have preferred to go to Italy even to the point where he only ever ordered Italian food wherever we went – specifically Spaghetti Frutti di Mare (Seafood Spaghetti).
“Dad had some health issues and was undergoing an investigation to diagnose what the problem was. It was while in hospital having tests that he contracted coronavirus and because of his underlying health issues, he was unfortunately too weak to fight off the virus. However, covid was a contributing factor to his underlying issues and not the sole reason for his death.”
Joe- talking in 2017
Cwmbran Life had the pleasure of interviewing Joe in 2017. Enjoy Joe talking about his life in this video.