The hot rays of a summer sun beamed down on a deck of a home on Lakeside Drive South. Shielded by an umbrella, friends sat in a circle mourning, smiling and reminiscing.
It had been just three days since their close friend, Joseph Mollicone, 31, of Forked River passed away after suffering fatal injuries due to a motorcycle accident on Nautilus Boulevard.
“It feels so surreal,” Frank Pezzuti said.
“I don’t think it’s really hit any of us yet,” Cheryl Detora said, adding that she keeps thinking she’s going to wake up from the nightmare.
They remembered Mollicone, a 2000 Lacey Township High School graduate, by his smile, great friendship, uplifting personality and good advice.
“I grew up with him from middle school,” Pezzuti said. “He’s always been a good friend.”
Mollicone was with Frank Pezzuti and his wife Melanie Pezzuti for many of their milestones, he said. He encouraged the couple to get married and went with Frank to pick out an engagement ring. When Melanie’s mother suddenly died not long before the wedding, Mollicone was there to help her cope and assist the family in moving. He was there for the wedding and with the couple when they found out they were having their second child.
“I’m sad he won’t be able to meet our son,” Frank Pezzuti said as his wife stroked her belly.
Mollicone was goodhearted, Chris Colacci said. Cheryl Detora needed a car so he gave her his truck. Mollicone would also call out of work whenever a friend needed him.
“Everybody came before himself,” Cheryl Detora said. “Anytime we were struggling, he was always the first one there.”
The friends also remembered Mollicone as “silly”— like the time he ran downstairs to the box of Halloween costumes and returned dressed as a cheerleader, the time when he locked himself in a dog cage or when they got lost searching for the Forked River Mountains.
“He was a big joker. He always made things the best times,” Cheryl Detora said. “Everything’s a good memory.”
Cars, motorcycles, tattoos, church and family were a few of Mollicone’s favorite things.
“Church was his priority,” Chris Colacci said. Cheryl Detora added that his family and friends “meant the world to him.”
“Joe’s religion was a very important part of his life,” she said “It was the reason why he was the way he was.”
Just several weeks before the accident, Mollicone had been baptized at America’s Keswick, a ministry for men that teaches and models the Christian message through addiction recovery.
“His life was a battle,” Frank Pezzuti said. “He fought until he got his life back on track.”
Four years ago, Mollicone went to the rehabilitation facility with an addiction problem, Rob Russomano of America’s Keswick said. Mollicone returned to the center based in Whiting for a second time a year and a half ago.
“I really got to know Joe then,” he said. “We bonded to the point where I’ve considered him to be a son.”
Mollicone rose above all his problems, Russomano said. A recent tattoo reflected just that. Mollicone had printed on the fingers of one hand “Set” and on the other “Free.”
“The last six months, Joe really grew into a man. All the years I’ve known Joe, I haven’t known him to be in as good a place as he was,” Russomano said.
Mollicone was simple, open, eager to learn, easy to get along with, great with kids and a real “plus” to have around, he said. He would volunteer at Keswick to cut hair for the men, plow the snow and would even work on the staff member’s cars.
Russomano had baptized Mollicone that Mothers Day weekend. “He reaffirmed his faith,” he said. The baptismal was an outward declaration of the transformation that had taken place inwardly. “He said, ‘I just want everyone to know that I believe in Jesus Christ.’ "
“His faith was childlike,” he said. “God was really using him all over. He’s going to be very missed.”
Frank Pezzuti added that Mollicone had been a sponsor for some of the men at Keswick, always taking phone calls and immediately dropping everything to help a friend in need.
“He didn’t have friends, he had family… He saw the positive in everyone and everything,” Melanie Pezzuti said. “He has touched so many lives. He has been able to help so many people fight their demons.”
With eyes on the ground in deep thought, his friends questioned why God would take Mollicone from this world.
“You would think God would want more people like him in this world,” Frank Pezzuti said.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Melanie Pezzuti said, shaking her head. “At least if he’s not going to be here with us, he can be an angel keeping us safe.”
Mollicone’s favorite Bible verse was, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Russomano said.
There’s another verse in the Bible that says people are to be at the top of their game when God calls, Russomano said.
“God called him home, and he called at him at the top of his game,” he said. “God will look at him and say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!' "
Mollicone was born in 1980 in New Brunswick and was formerly of Toms River before moving to Forked River in 1991, according to his obituary. He worked at J.F. Kiely Construction Co., where he actually was due to receive a $3 raise on Monday, Frank Pezzuti said.
He is survived by his mother, Joyce and Jay Mayer, father, Gerald and Lisa Mollicone, brothers and sisters, Anthony, Daniel, Ashley, Cody and Cassidy, nephews, Ryan and Tyler and niece Kamryn.
A viewing will be held on Thursday, June 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Riggs Funeral Home on Route 9 North in Forked River. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Mollicone’s memory to America’s Keswick, 601 Route 530, Whiting, NJ 08759.
A memorial service will be held at America’s Keswick on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Also, on Sunday, July 8, a benefit will be held at the Knights of Columbus on East Lacey Road in Forked River in Mollicone’s honor. The time has yet to be determined. There will be a minimum $5 donation at the door. All proceeds will benefit America’s Keswick.