Joe Rivera Jr. loved to fix and rebuild almost anything, from restoring classic cars to renovating his homes.
“He was a father that you could always count on to help us with any situation that came up in our lives,” said daughter Eileen Thompson.
Thompson said she could talk to her father about anything.
“He would listen to what I had to say and then tell me what he thought,” Thompson said. “I always, always enjoyed my time with my father. He was tough when he had to be, but definitely one of my best friends.”
Son Bruce Rivera said his father protected all of his children, standing up for them without judging.
Rivera, 78, of Merrillville, worked at the Budd Co. in Gary for 22 years travelling to other locations to troubleshoot problems.
After retiring from Budd, Rivera worked as a mechanic and body man and frame man for Cliff’s Body Shop and Preferred Auto Body.
“He liked the bodywork mostly, perfecting the art of straightening car frames and making sure they were back in perfect condition and everything fit properly,” Bruce Rivera said. “He said it was an art.”
Rivera helped teach auto body work at the old Crown Point High School.
“He always said ‘whatever you do, do it right,’” Bruce Rivera said. “It takes the same amount of time.”
Rivera’s hobbies included hunting, golfing, fishing, playing poker with his friends and dancing which he learned from his grandmother. Like his father, Rivera also played several musical instruments. He once surprised his 8-year-old grandson by jumping into the seat on his new drum set and pounding out a great 10-minute set.
“All of us laughed at the looks on both of their faces,” Bruce Rivera said.
“There is nothing he wouldn't or hadn't given to his family,” Thompson said. “He always, always taught us that without family, you have nothing. In honor of him, I plan on living my life the way he taught me to.”