With his strong Bronx accent and sly smile, Msgr. Joseph Carroll was a San Diego icon.

“Father Joe,” as he was far better known, was the president emeritus and namesake of San Diego’s largest homeless services provider, Father Joe’s Villages.

After years of declining health, which saw the amputations of both of his feet as the result of complications of diabetes, Father Joe died in the early hours of July 11. He was 80.

Father Joe once said his greatest accomplishment was helping others to see that the homeless are just “neighbors who need our help.”

“When you take the name ‘homeless’ out of it … it seems to take the fear out of working with our neighbors in need,” Father Joe told about 800 people who had gathered at the Town and Country Resort & Hotel in Mission Valley in late June 2012 to celebrate his life and work.

Father Joe added that his life had been enriched by daily encounters with people who have benefited from the programs of Father Joe’s Villages.

Thanks to a series of long-running television commercials, in which he solicited donations of not only cars, but also boats and planes to fund local homeless services, Father Joe was more than the face of Father Joe’s Villages. For San Diegans of diverse faiths, he was arguably the most recognizable local Catholic. And for local Catholics, including bishops and fellow priests, he was a larger-than-life personality and a force of nature….

Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan said that he could tell “a million stories” about Father Joe, but he had a clear favorite: David Copley, publisher of Copley Press, had canceled a lavish dinner and decided to donate the lobsters to Father Joe’s Villages, Bishop Dolan recalled. About a week later, Father Joe was leading Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on a tour. When they arrived at the kitchen, he said, Rogers overheard a homeless man lamenting yet another day of lobster bisque….

The above comes from a July 12 story in the Southern Cross.