Joe Winters, looked up to on Long Island for helping to build a thriving waste management business, his involvement in the New York boxing scene, and his efforts to support the build-up of systems and support for those dealing autism, has died, from COVID-19.
The 54 year old New Yorker passed away on Tuesday, January 5, one of 15 on the day and 2,376 total COVID fatalities since the virus started its rampage, in Suffolk County. There have been 357,000 plus deaths from COVID in the United States to this point, according to the Johns Hopkins University website.
Winters ran up a 68-7 amateur record, then a 13-2-1 mark as a cruiserweight and heavyweight pro, fighting from 1986 until 1992. Local fights fans attending events at the Felt Forum to see Buddy McGirt, Donny LaLonde and Seamus McDonagh prove their worth would see Winters in action, before he decided to go all-in helping build and maintain a trash hauling company born in 1950.
The business titan and fight game perennial leaves behind saddened family, which includes wife Michele, and sons Patrick and Sean.
The hauling project was the prototype family business, and Joey learned work ethic and character traits from his pop, “Big” Jim Winters. After Jim stepped to the side, after decades of toil, Joey worked with brothers Sean, Jimmy, Michael and Andrew on growing the size and diversity of the company. But it wasn't like Joey Winters exited the ring and left boxing behind. In the summer of 2019, Joey dipped in again, with a partnership in Times Square Boxing, along with Adam Glenn, son of NYC boxing icon Jimmy Glenn.
Prospects Jeremy Hill, Sean Hemphill, Dominique Crowder, Akil Knight, Dushane Crooks (13-1, 7 KOs) and Irishman Joe Ward felt safe under that umbrella, with Winters' rep speaking up loudly for him.
They felt safe, just as guys fighting on Jimmy Winters' cards in the mid to late 70s in NY, like Irish Bobby Cassidy, did.
Boxing was the side hobby for the Saint James, Smithtown, Long Island resident, and the waste managment firm the primary focus; Long Island’s largest recycling, refuse carting and garbage processing firm brought in well over $150M in revenue on average of late.
And because fighters knew the Winters worked out of love for the sweet science and didn't need another revenue stream, they were able to breathe easier and worry less about out of the ring snafus.
In 1999, Farmingville, NY super middleweight Carmine Tufano topped some Winters gang cards on the Island and Joe continued his long-standing romance with the dangerous game, with events unfolding into 2002. “We do have a long term game plan that we're going to follow,” Joey told media when unfurling plans for a slate of cards, and the formation of a team that included Jimmy Glenn training the talent. Then 35, Joey had high hopes to edging up the ranks, as his family did in the waste business, and cracked that he was ready for dealings with sub-angelic boxing folks. “I'm used to dealing with not so nice people in the garbage business,” Joey said, with a grin.
This COVID loss hits that much harder for those who knew how active Joe was in charity work, especially in the autism community. The Winters Center for Autism in West Babylon, Long Island will stand as testament to Winters' commitment.
The family released a statement on the passing of the Winter Brothers' CEO, following the sad culmination which began with a coronavirus battle that began after Christmas: “Our family has lost a loving, caring and dedicated husband, father, brother and uncle. Long Island has lost a true icon and philanthropist. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Joe have lost a dear friend and source of inspiration. Joe leaves behind a company and a team that only he could have built with such determination and direction of excellence that would make anyone proud. Joe’s spirit and vision will continue to guide us. No words can adequately express our sadness and loss associated with Joe’s passing or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.”
His pals know Joe Winters loved to hit the links, and that he'd every season wish for the NY Jets to elevate, that this year would be the year the football franchise was able to use optimism about their prospects and fuel a dash to the Super Bowl.
The loss of Joey Winters hit Gerry Cooney in the solar plexus; on Tuesday night, the Long Island/NY boxing royalty told NYF that Joey was rock solid, no reservations about that. “I couldn't have a bad thing to say about him,” the Huntington native Cooney said. “This news hit me, it was shocking. I didn't know he was sick. This COVID, it is a 15 rounder! I loved them all, the whole family. His dad, his mother was a great lady…Joey worked hard, and he did good for everybody. As for being a fighter, he was a tough kid, small heavyweight. He'll be missed, big time.”
Joe's dad Big Jim passed away in 2005, and mom Brigid died in 2016.
Adam Glenn of NYC lost not a business partner, but a member of his extended family. “He was part of my family, I'm so very sorry to lose him. He was a young guy, he had a lot left to give the world,” Adam said. “I feel for his family.”
The stamina of the virus making the rounds is such a harsh reality, Glenn understands. “COVID is like a 15 round fight. It's not going away, and it's taking a lot from us on the way out. It's been a rough time. I lost my dad, and Joe. But, the way they'd see it, we mourn today, and we go back to work tomorrow, we keep on truckin.”
Adam, born in 1981, was by Jimmy's side, when he was slighter than the heavy bags dropped down from the gym ceiling. “I knew Joe since I was a little kid, I knew him as a fighter, then business man. And the house got bigger, the clothes a little nicer, but the person never changed. He was the same guy that used to wake up before dawn and work the route with his father. Boxing wise, we were gonna make a champion. He said, ‘When I'm done with garbage, I'll be into boxing one hundred percent, and we're gonna have so much fun, and go places.' There were still so many things he looked forward to doing. But we're still gonna make a champ, we're gonna do it, with his family, with his son Patrick and his brother Sean, we'll carry that on.”
“The guy was like a Long Island legend, kind, generous, a good hearted guy,” said boxing promoter/baseball team owner Lou DiBella, a Sea Cliff, LI resident. “He was really a super respected person, and one of the better people you'd ever meet.”
You could hear the disbelief in DiBellas' voice, when he recalled how Joe Winters euologized Jimmy Glenn at Jimmy's service, when in May 2020 he succumbed to COVID. “To think that months later, we'd be eulogizing him? It's insane, he was big, athletic guy, he did boxing training, golfed several times a week….He was the kind of guy, you coud't help but enjoy his company. And this shows the insidiousness of the disease…and I can't help but be angry with people still playing the fool, about the potential severity of COVID. If you get it and live through it, thank God for that. This is kind of like the luck of the draw. I've been in shock the whole day.”
Something Joe told Lou just before the holidays keeps ricocheting around DiBellas' brain: “He told me that he was in a place where he'd be doing more things he wanted to do, like playing a lot of golf. He was so looking foward to the future.”