By Emily J. Minor
HIGHLAND BEACH — Joseph John Asselta, who had notable careers in the military and aviation and space law before retiring to Florida and serving in local government, died Nov. 11. He was 78.
Born April 26, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Asselta attended St. John’s University, earning a bachelor’s in business administration in 1955. Ten years later, he graduated from the university’s law school.
Mr. Asselta rose steadily through the ranks at Mendes & Mount, a New York law firm specializing in aerospace litigation.
But it was, perhaps, his military career that provided him with his greatest pride. During his tenure with the U.S. Navy, Mr. Asselta completed officer training, flight training, nuclear weapons school and military justice school.
Beverly Brown, the town clerk in Highland Beach, where Mr. Asselta served for several years on the commission, said he was a taskmaster who wanted things done right. But he was also empathetic, kind — and proud of his military service, and his family.
“He was very intense, and whatever he did he went at it at 100 percent,” she said. “He was very proud of being in the Navy.”
Although Mr. Asselta and his wife, Judith, had bought their Highland Beach home several decades ago, the couple had lived full-time in Highland Beach for about 10 years.
Brown said Mr. Asselta served as vice mayor from 2004 to 2006, at which point he resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for mayor. He was also very involved in St. Lucy Catholic Church.
A public servant until the end, Mr. Asselta had been scheduled to appear before Town Commission at the October meeting, as he was being considered for the Finance Board.
Brown said Mr. Asselta apparently took sick while attending a wedding out of state, and never made the meeting.
He did, however, return to Florida just before his death, she said.
In addition to his wife of 41 years, survivors include sons, Jason and Matthew Asselta, and two grandsons.
Services were held Nov. 16 at St. Lucy, and the family asks that any memorials be sent to the Wounded Warrior Project, or St. Lucy’s maintenance fund.