Joseph James Onzo Jr.

February 17, 1952September 3, 2020

Joseph James Onzo Jr. was born on February 17, 1952 in San Francisco, California and passed away on September 3, 2020 in Merced, California where he lived for 31 years. After graduating from Atwater High School, Joe attended Sherman Music School in Chicago, IL. He played with several bands, including Astral Knight, Stroke, Living Waters and Barboza Brass. He performed with Merced Symphony Orchestra and joined with Preservation Big Band – The Best of Jazz for the grand opening of Merced Main Street Theater. Joe was an accomplished musician; he played the piano, guitar, violin and trumpet. He composed music and was a singer as well. Joe taught private music lessons for 42 years and was known as “An incredible teacher, a brilliant musician and a stellar human being.” One of his many hobbies included the study of mineralogy and over the years had acquired a large collection of gem stones and rocks. Yosemite was his favorite place to visit; he and his wife Kim were married in the Ahwahnee Meadow. Joseph is survived by his loving wife J. Kimberly Jennings – Onzo of Merced, California; sons Joshua Onzo, David Onzo and Andrew Onzo of Merced, California and daughter Gennesis Onzo of Las Vegas, Nevada. He also leaves behind his stepchildren Tony Jennings (Sheila) of Raeford, North Carolina, Chanze Jennings of Grants Pass, Oregon and Cameron Jennings (Brittany) of Merced, California; as well as his grandson Giacob Delgrego. He is preceded in death by his father Joseph James Onzo and mother Vernadine Rose Maddux; maternal grandparents Andrew Marshal Richardson and Anna May Dingler Richardson and paternal grandparents Emil Onzo and Anna Onzo Due to the California restrictions caused by COVID-19 a Celebration of Life will be held at a later date once the restrictions are lifted.


  • J. Kimberly Jennings-Onzo, Spouse


Joseph James Onzo Jr.

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Stacey Wiebe

February 20, 2021

I took violin lessons from Joe for five years, during which time I learned a lot about music and enjoyed lots of fun and thought-provoking conversations with a mentor who always had something interesting to say. I'll always be inspired by Joe's passions and commitment to his pursuits, which were many throughout his life, but I'll also miss comparing notes on our latest TV binges, or where to get the best clam chowder. Joe would say that if we played the notes together perfectly, we could open a door to another dimension. Sometimes it felt like we succeeded with our music, but there were also times when just talking to Joe could open a door to that new place somehow closer to the truth than the one in which we live. I'll always remember him as a fellow adventurer and be thankful for the time we spent together.

Paul George

December 17, 2020

I knew Joe from roughly 1990-1994 while stationed at Castle Air Force Base. I was a longtime guitarist who came to Joe to learn piano; Joe was a patient, kind, and keenly observant teacher. As I went through a painful person time during that period, Joe also became a friend, and I visited his home a few times during that stretch and after.

I also went to see Astral Knight play a couple of times, and for some reason their name popped into my head the other day. Figured I'd find out what they were up to, and was moved far more than I expected to be upon learning of Joe's passing.

My only regret is having been remiss in staying in touch after I transferred up to Travis AFB, but I'm overjoyed Joe continued to touch the lives of others.

My deepest condolences to his family and friends, I can only imagine your loss and hope this late remembrance doesn't bring any fresh hurt. Joe was an absolute real one and left me with many enduring lessons about music and life... my best to all of you.

--Paul G.

Jeff Gartner

September 26, 2020

I knew Joe through High School and beyond. He was always a multi talented musician and a good friend. After our communal days we managed to stay in touch and I would see him in the music store from time to time before we moved out of state. I used to borrow his good looking yellow Maverick to take my future wife out and he was always willing to help. We managed to get together with Joe and Kim a couple of years ago during a visit to California and I was amazed at how well he was aging. My prayers and thoughts are with his family. We will miss him.

Danika Perry

September 22, 2020

I am deeply saddened to hear of Joe’s passing. He was one of my favorite’s always smiling and the stories . I would pull my chair up along the side of him during treatments to see pictures and hear stories. Just a great man. Under the circumstances he always maintained a positive outlook. He was my hero. I pray your family finds peace and understanding during this difficult time . You will be sorely missed and I thank the lord for crossing paths with you. Rest easy my friend .

Patricia Doucette

September 16, 2020

I wish I could have met you, but I applaud you for raising such a wonderful daughter, Genna, who is my son's love. I am praying for the repose of your soul and I ask you to pray for me as well. God Bless you, Joseph Onzo, Jr.

John DeAnda

September 12, 2020

Joe, Thank you for being a long time friend and fellow musician for over 40 years. I must say that you are definitely one of the most talented musicians that I've ever performed with. You're going to be missed by all my friend,
By me, your current and former students and friends, but especially by Kimmy. She loved you so much and worried about you. I know that you'll be watching over her, and walking beside her everyday.
I did mention to Kim that I was pretty sure that you were in Heavens band performing with our other friends. Do me a favor Joe, Hold a spot for me in the percussion section.

I won't say good-bye my dear friend, but 'til we meet again.

Much love & respect, John

John and Matt Mucci

September 8, 2020

So, as many people know Joe is still a part of the Merced music family, and the people he touched will forever pay it forward to other young musicians. He taught my son Matt for a few years, and he was a huge part in the success Matt had playing around the area. He was an inspirational teacher, taking his time, and letting his students learn, but having fun also. I am a musician myself, and thru the years got to know Joe even more, and am proud to call him a pal. "To be a rock and not to roll", rest in peace Joe.

Kyle Cramer

September 8, 2020

Joe was an almost mythical figure to me and other musicians I knew who also studied under him or just knew of his brilliance. He was always patient, thoughtful, and kind, radianting an aura of wisdom that spoke of a deeper knowledge of things... So much so that many people I knew viewed him as a kind of wizard. His view of music theory not only as numbers but as beautiful patterns, sacred geometry, is something that he imparted onto me that I will always cherish. He was my neighbor and I took every chance I could when I saw him taking a smoke break to pick his mind. After traveling the world I have met many people but there will never be another Joe, knowing him was one of the great honors of my life. Forever respect, forever love. - Kyle C. Tokyo, Japan