LA CANADA, Calif. — Longtime auto dealer Joe Boccalero passed away on Nov. 27 from natural causes at Verdugo Hills Hospital. He was 92 years old.
Boccalero, who was born in Globe, Ariz., in 1921, was the president of Domenich Basso Inc. He operated a Chrysler Jeep store in Los Angeles for 40 years and had worked at the family-owned business since 1941.
“Loyalty to customer, product and the factory were Joe’s tenants,” said Mike Nickoloff, vice president of Domenich Basso Inc. “
The dealer and his family had moved to Los Angeles and settled near what is now USC Medical Center. After graduating high school, he attended Loyola University to study medicine. During that time, he served in World War II under General George Patton. He was captured and survived as a prisoner of war for five months. He received the Bronze Star for bravery and the Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered in battle.
At the end of the war, Boccalero returned to the family business, which was founded in in 1921 by his father-in-law, Domenich Basso. He worked in every department of the dealership and specialized in fleet sales.
As he assumed responsibility of the new-car sales department, Boccalero recognized the opportunities in supplying fleet vehicles to business and bidding on city, county and state fleet contracts. From the 1950s through the 1990s, Domenich Basso Inc. was recognized as the “municipal fleet” supply dealership of Los Angeles, supplying thousands of vehicles to the Los Angeles Police Department, the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, County of Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the state of California.
Boccalero assumed the presidency of the dealership in 1963 after the passing of his father-in-law, and he continued to grow the business. Boccalero retired from the business in 2003 after his wife, Alberta, suffered a severe stroke.
“When Joe retired in 2003 … he became the last of the breed of old-time dealers in Los Angeles who suffered through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, became a member of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ and brought all those experiences with him as he established his business career in the automobile industry,” said Nickoloff.