The strength of family

The strength of family

Retired Syracuse business exec Joseph Pagano won't let COVID-19 or MS keep him from being with the ones he loves.
Published: January 31, 2021 | Updated: February 1st, 2021 at 4:58 pm
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Pagano enjoys the sunshine on a Sunday morning. He spends most of his time enjoying his gardens and volunteering for SCORE, a small business mentorship program.

Joseph Pagano, 72, is a Syracuse resident and retired business executive. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis early on in his professional career, he’s spent the past few years volunteering and supporting small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Syracuse community. He’s been volunteering with SCORE, a local nonprofit focused on educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed, for over 15 years, bringing his expertise to the local business community.

Although he has limited mobility, Pagano continues to exercise his core and upper body. This strength allows him to lift himself out of his wheelchair and onto his lawnmower, which he uses to mow his lawn and those of his neighbors. He doesn’t mind mowing the lawn — in fact, he enjoys it. “It helps me feel normal,” Pagano said. Pagano isn’t in the mindset to let COVID-19 or MS keep him from doing what he loves and being with the ones he loves.

October 11th, 2020. Joseph Pagano exercises his core by pulling a heavy rope, an exercise his daughter recommended to him. Because of his limited mobility, exercise is important as his core strength is what allows him to lift himself out of his chair and support himself.
Joseph Pagano exercises his core by pulling a heavy rope, an exercise his daughter recommended to him. Because of his limited mobility, exercise his core strength is what allows him to lift himself out of his chair and support himself.
October 11th, 2020. Joseph Pagano mows his lawn and his neighbor's lawn on his lawn mower. He doesn't see the activiy as a chore and appreciates the labor.
Joseph mows his lawn and his neighbor's lawn frequently. He doesn't see the activity as a chore and appreciates the labor.

Although he continues to stay occupied at home through his exercise and volunteering, Pagano is an extrovert and traveler at heart. He visits Florida every winter to escape the Syracuse winters and loves to connect with new people. Thankfully, SCORE pivoted their mentorship to an online and mobile format, which allows Pagano to continue his work. But what keeps him grounded is his family. His son and his daughter in law have recently moved from Brooklyn to Syracuse, which provided a bright spot for Pagano during the pandemic.

Thanks to his ADA-accessible, hand-controlled van, Pagano is able to visit his son and his grandchildren every week. Pagano enjoys driving and used to drive for Uber and Lyft before the pandemic hit. “My children made sure I stopped doing that,” Pagano said, speaking about driving for rideshare in the beginning weeks of COVID-19.

Instead of driving around, Pagano now spends more time playing with his grandchildren, who love to race around outside. With the grandchildren, there’s always something new to show, whether that be a digital coloring book, school portraits, or Halloween costumes. Although COVID-19 may be shutting down stores and closing borders, the one thing that will remain a constant is Joseph Pagano’s love for his family and theirs for him.

October 11th, 2020. Joseph Pagano talks about his lack of interaction with people after the beginning of COVID-19. As an avid traveler and extrovert, the limited contact with people has been difficult on Pagao, who enjoys company more than anything else.
Joseph talks about his lack of interaction with people after the beginning of COVID-19. As an avid traveler and extrovert, the limited contact with people has been difficult on Pagano, who enjoys company more than anything else.
October 18th, 2020. Joseph Pagano drives to his son's house to visit his grandchildren and stay over for dinner. Because his van is ADA accessible and operated with hand controls, Pagano is able to drive despite his limited mobility.
October 18th, 2020. Joseph Pagano's granddaughter shows off her Halloween costume, a peacock. Her parents realized that her costume did not come with a mask and planned to create one in similar colors for her costume.
Joseph's granddaughter shows off her Halloween costume, a peacock. Her parents realized that her costume did not come with a mask and planned to create one in similar colors for her costume.
October 18th, 2020. Joseph Pagano's grandchildren pretend to be worms on the trampoline in the backyard, showing off their tricks and flipping around.
Joseph's grandchildren pretend to be worms on the trampoline in the backyard, showing off their tricks and flipping around.
October 18th, 2020. Although Joseph Pagano has limited mobility, he is still able to shoot hoops with his son and grandson. Everyone waited breathlessly as Joseph shot the ball and cheered as he made the basket.
Everyone watched in anticipation as Pagano shot the basketball, waiting to see if it would go in. When the basket swished everyone cheered. "Still got it!" Pagano said. 
October 18th, 2020. Joseph Pagano's granddaughter hugs him after tiring herself out being a peacock and showing off her feathers.
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is a visual journalist and contributor for The NewsHouse.