Born: June 10, 1914
Died: March 19, 1999
Joseph Nicholas DePietro was born June 10, 1914 in Paterson. Undersized and underweight as a teenager, he was drawn to bodybuilding and developed his 4’7” 120-pound frame into weightlifting machine. His arms were especially short, the bar barely clearing his head when they were extended.
In the 1930s, Joe distinguished himself as the state’s most accomplished lifter. He competed as a member of the Bates Barbell Club in Paterson and later the Southern California Weightlifting Association, and would go on to win nine U.S. and North American titles between 1942 and 1951.
The Great Depression and World War II had prevented Joe from making his mark on the international level. However in 1947 he set a bantamweight record in Philadelphia when he pressed 102.5 kilos. He went on to capture the World Championships that year. The bantamweight category was brand new and tailor-made for Joe. He pushed his world record to 106.5 kilos in New York in March of 1948.
Joe made the 1948 Olympic team (America’s first in 12 years) and competed against the world’s best at age 34. In the three-event competition, he finished first in the press (105 kilos), third in the snatch (90 kilos) and fifth in the clean and jerk (112.5 kilos). His cumulative weight of 307.5 kilos enabled him to edge Brit Julius Creus and U.S. teammate Rich Tom, a Chinese-American.
After the Olympics, Joe lifted an aggregate 312.5 kilos in a meet to set yet another world record. He competed in the 1949 World Championship but finished third. In 1951, Joe was his final major title, taking the gold at the Pan American Games in Argentina.
Joe continued to compete into his 40s. He passed away at age 84 in Fair Lawn.