Joe Lobozzo, Major Figure in Optics Manufacturing and Beloved Rochester Leader, Passes

On May 12, at age 79, Joseph Michael Lobozzo “the second” (AKA JML II), a father, husband, mentor, partner, leader, inspirer, philanthropist, cousin, uncle, papa, jokester, brother, innovator, entrepreneur, mentor, motorcyclist, sweetheart, and friend, passed peacefully to his eternal reward with 18 loved-ones gathered around him.

People loved him ferociously. His passing was a shock that reverberated near and far. From his diligent medical team at URMC, who was convinced he would live forever, to the Hanedas and other colleagues in Japan, where he became like family during the 57 visits to their country. Joe was a massive presence who left a gigantic hole in many hearts that will be impossible to fill.

Joe dedicated his life to helping the community, serving on nonprofit boards, and helping social programs thrive. Most of you have witnessed the fruits of his generosity throughout this city. It’s hard to remember them all, such as United Way, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester Medical Center, St. Ann’s Committee, Visiting Nurse, St. Ambrose, the YMCA, and many more. In fact, two programs will enjoy generous commitments made days before his passing. The three of us will endeavor to follow the path of generosity that he forged and to mean as much to people around us, as he meant to the people around him. He believed we each could do anything we set our minds to, and we’ll strive daily to reflect that in our lives.

Joe was predeceased by his parents, Joe and Lily Lobozzo; Brother-in-law, Jimmy Walsh; Mother-in-law and father-in-law, Anthony and Nan Julian.

He is survived by his dedicated children, Jeanna (Tom) Ross, Jodi (Ted) Aman and Joe (Peggy Sammon) Lobozzo; adored grandchildren, Calin (Jenny), Leo, Brendan, Camerin, Joey, Lily, Charlie, Rowan and Sabina; childhood sweetheart and rekindled love, Barbara Collorec; former wife and dearest friend, Joanne Lobozzo; beloved sister, Carolyn Walsh; loved brothers and sisters-in-law, Michael (Mary Beth) Julian and Mary (John) Carlino; cherished nieces and nephews, Carol Ann, Jim (Leana), Michelle (Steven), Michael (Gina), Marc (Brandi), Tyler (Emily) and Thomas; and 13 of 29 first cousins, their families, many colleagues, former employees, devoted intercessors and countless best friends

The South Bronx Joey

Joseph was born to Lily and Joe Lobozzo on August 11, 1943, in the Bronx, NY, the younger brother of Carolyn Walsh and 29 first cousins, half who lived in the same house as him and the rest who lived a few blocks away. He served as an altar boy at St. Rita’s Parish and attended All Hallows High School (where he shared in shenanigans with friends he is still in touch with).

He gained his perseverance and industriousness from his mother, Lily, who was not a stranger to working hard and stretching pennies to support her family. From a young age, he tended his Grandmother Frances’s garden in Pine Bush, where he and his cousins spent their summers, cleaned furnaces in his Uncle Tony’s oil heating business, and helped in his aunts’ sandwich shop. At 9, his first entrepreneurial adventure was selling paper bags for a penny with his friend Vinnie Colangelo.

When he was 16, he met Barbara (Covello) Collorec at his next-door neighbor, Geri Montalbano’s birthday party. She recalls his swagger into the house, donning a black leather jacket and matching boots and striking a pose against the window, hoping to look cool in front of her friends. Instead, his leg pulled down the Venetian blinds, and he retreated home with barely a word to anyone.

Around the same time, when he was a junior in high school, his physics teacher invited his students to a lecture. The speaker told the young audience that the optics industry would be booming by the time they finished college. Her prediction and encouragement set the course of his life. He went to Hunter College and then CUNY studying physics to prepare for a career in optics. However, it would be six years before he passed enough courses to graduate, primarily because he was simultaneously working the overnight shift as a New York City cab driver. (How did he find his way around without WAZE?)

He was always there for his sister, as she was for him. They were two peas in a pod, “Carol and Joey,” teasing, encouraging, challenging, loving and holding onto each other from the first moment to his last breath. In fact, they supported each other through many firsts and lasts: When he was still in college, and they were newlyweds, he lived with Aunt Carol and Uncle Jimmy. When she went into labor with Carol Ann and Jim, he drove her to the hospital both times. Of course, she came to Rochester to help our mom when we were born. Despite living across the state for most of their lives, they were always by each others’ side for all the tenderest and toughest moments, as well as joyous family celebrations. Probably because he was there from the beginning, he loved Carol Ann and Jim like they were his own kids. They adored their uncle right back, calling him daily to ask for advice, report on their achievements, and remind him when the Yankees’ game started.

We’ve heard a fraction of the outrageous yarns from the Bronx Joey second hand, and we would never do them justice by telling them here. We encourage his oldest friends and cousins to add more stories to this webpage so that we can all picture his younger life more fully.

Negotiator Joe

He finally left the Bronx to work a short stint as a salesperson in an optical company in Chicago. Too lonely without his family around him, he returned to New York. Soon a former manager poached him from a job near home to work at Ilex Optical Industry in Rochester, and he only took the position after negotiating they also employ his cousin, Andrew. The two moved to Rochester to start motorcycle gangs and make their mark on Monroe County. Joe tenaciously learned everything he could about the optics industry and created roots here in Rochester.

People gravitated to him and instantly adored him. He could sell sawdust to a carpenter. Our aunt Marie Patricelli worked at Ilex and saw the new hire, Joe, as a perfect mate for her niece, Joanne. She advocated that Joanne get an administrative job there too, and then scheduled a luncheon for the two to get to know each other. Lobozzo brought along his new friend, Claude Fedele, to serve as his wingman. Our mom fell in love with his optimism and outgoing magnetism, and only after a few months of dating in 1969 he convinced her to marry him. The three of us, Jeanna, Jodi, and Joey, came in quick succession in ’71, ’72 and ’74.

During the end of Ilex’s tenure as a company, Joe calculated that he could deliver lenses on time for less than what they were quoting customers. This signaled it was time for him to venture out on his own. With Joanne on board, they set up a single drafting table in their basement in 1972, and Lobozzo started JML Optical Industries, Inc., a company that designed, manufactured, and distributed high-precision optical components and equipment with a focus on customer service. He threw himself into making JML successful and sustainable, taking risks, and building relationships to make that happen.

One stand-out relationship was one he built with a young executive at Google to design and create lenses that filmed Google Street View. He led JML, which grew to 90+ employees, many of who stayed for decades until he sold it in 2011.

More than the Average Joe

Joe did everything big. Teasing, laughing, and talking loudly were his love languages. He filled a room with his boundless energy.

Joe was obsessed with sports, playing and watching baseball and basketball. He exercised diligently, recording his reps and sets for decades. This enthusiasm had him training for and running 27 NYC marathons. (In fact, two weeks before he died, he made his friend, Jim Flamia, bring his NuStep machine to Jodi’s house so he could continue working out. He was also trying to “lose weight” and told her to give him reduced portions of oatmeal so he could accomplish this. Unfortunately, his sweet tooth had him eating 14 of Aunt Carol’s biscotti each afternoon and a bowl of ice cream after dinner every night, which kept him from achieving this.)

He and his wife, Barbara passionately served the Rochester, NY community with time and donations, making friends for life in everything they did. Though it is a drop in the bucket, most notably, he served on the board of URMC, RIT, and the United Way and was a member of Bishop Clark’s Stewardship Council. There are many more places, programs and families he supported, all recorded in written articles and on plaques on walls around town. There are too many to list, definitely more than we recall. He remembered them, though. Until the very end, he could tell us details about every single person he met along the way. The community that he loved, loved him back, acknowledging his generosity thoroughly, giving him a sense of belonging.

Not sure where he found the time, but he was also involved in YPO, the Young Presidents Organization. Though he met business owners from around the world in that organization, the best part for him was the small group of men from Western New York that he regularly met with to support each other in work and life. That was before he returned to school, graduating in the inaugural class of RIT’s executive MBA program in 1995.

He had so many friends, too many to list, but you know who you are. He loved you, believed in you, and felt loved by you.


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New York Photonics is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State optics, photonics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government.


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