Joseph Stanley Dorobiala of Alexandria, known as Joe by his friends and family, passed away May 1, 2020. Joe had resided for 18 years in Alexandria’s West End with his partner Gary Vandiver. Joe was renowned as an avid gardener, gourmet cook, animal lover, and good friend to many neighbors.
Joe was born at Ft. Meade, Maryland. As a son of a career army father, he grew up living in many states and overseas. Joe graduated from Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1966, and joined the Navy, again traveling extensively around the world. After receiving an honorable discharge, he returned to Fayetteville where he studied and qualified as an Architectural Draftsman in 1973. Joe worked as a draftsman in Pinehurst, North Carolina for several years, before deciding that drafting wasn’t his life’s calling. He then moved to Raleigh, where he worked as director of training of the wine cellar wait staff at the Angus Barn Restaurant, a local landmark. After retiring he moved to Virginia.
Joe loved life. He knew no stranger, and he instantly brightened the lives of all he met. He was an excellent cook and many of his meals—especially those prepared on holidays—were legendary, multi-course extravaganzas featuring southern comfort food. Family, friends, and even workmen on neighborhood projects gathered eagerly as guests at Joe’s table. His notorious recipe for collard greens begins with an unapologetic “one pound of bacon.”
Joe became the unofficial gardener at his Ballston condominium in the 1990’s, freely donating his time to beautify the property. He was also the unofficial neighborhood handyman, eager and available to fix disposals or crooked Venetian blinds. While walking his dog Toby, he would befriend people he met along the way and offer help with their home projects.
Joe moved to Alexandria in the 00’s. He could often be found outside, tending to his elaborate garden which was the crown jewel of the block. Joe was never without a cup of coffee and a kind word for passersby, who could always count on him for a friendly chat. On Halloween, Joe would prepare for the trick-or-treaters with elaborate costumes and props, often including special effects with smoke, dramatic lighting, and pop-up surprises. Kids loved it. Joe was devoted to all animals, especially dogs, cats, birds and squirrels. The local animals that visited Joe were the constant recipients of his treats and affection.
Joe was famous for his annual Ladybug Street Party, enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Joe would bring in thousands of live ladybugs. After hotdogs and cookies, the kids released the ladybugs to fly away — exciting for the kids, but bad luck for the neighborhood’s aphids.
Those left to cherish Joe’s memory are Gary Vandiver of Alexandria, his partner of twenty-five years; his sister Helen Dorobiala Marlowe and husband Ron Avery of Charlottesville; sister Joyce Biondi of East Hampton, Connecticut, brother Michael Dorobiala and wife Tina of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and sister-in-law Kathy Dorobiala of Lake Worth, Florida. Joe was preceded in death by his mother, Viola Chase Dorobiala; father, Henry Dorobiala; and older brother, Thomas Dorobiala [Kathy].
Contributions in Joe’s memory can be made to humanesociety.org, alexandriaanimals.org, aspca.org, or the animal charity of your choice.