Joseph Anthony Grillo, a commercial shrimper for more than 50 years who fought for legislation to protect the island industry, died on Jan. 1 at his home. He was 89.

Grillo, affectionately known as “Captain Joe,” was born Jan.10, 1931, in Apalachicola, Florida. He moved to Galveston with his family in 1940.

Grillo was a loving family man, a hard-working commercial shrimper and devoted Roman Catholic, his family and friends say.


Grillo, who was of Roman Catholic faith, was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, said Edna Grillo, his wife of 66 years.

He was kind and always taught his children to be kind and help others, she said, adding there wasn’t a person he passed by without saying “hello.”

He helped as many people as he could in any way he could, she said. He would often give advice and fishing resources to young fishermen, she said.


Grillo and Edna had three daughters — Grace Grillo Sherrill, Josephine “Beep” Grillo Sullivan and Mary Grillo Locklin — and one family friend who Edna Grillo said was like a son, Robert Mihovil.

Mihovil and Sullivan grew up together in school. The Grillos began doting on Mihovil as a son after his mother died, Mihovil said.

Joseph Grillo loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally, Sullivan said, adding she was blessed to have him as a father.

“My father’s hugs would leave you breathless,” Sullivan said. “He just wanted you to know you were loved.”

Mihovil felt that love when visiting Grillo in the hospital. A doctor inquired about who Mihovil was.

Grillo sat up in his bed and put his hands on his hips. “That’s Robert! That’s my son!” Grillo told the doctor, Mihovil said.

“I couldn’t have been prouder,” he said.


Grillo purchased his shrimp boat, which he named Santa Maria, in 1952 and he and his wife operated it until they sold the boat at their retirement in 2003 to the Galveston Historical Foundation, which made it a part of its Texas Seaport Museum on Harborside Drive.

Grillo once led other shrimpers in a fight for legislation to keep local channels open that helped local shrimp boats make a living. He and other shrimpers protested by blocking one of the channels.

He also was one of the first fishermen to sell to Stephen “Boo” Schaaf’s father, Bill Schaaf, the original owner of Fisherman’s Wharf, 2200 Harborside Drive, when it was a seafood processing plant on Pier 22, Stephen Schaaf said.

Grillo took pride in being a commercial shrimper and was able to create wealth through his hard work, Schaaf said, adding his catch was usually the best product.

“Joe was a devoted friend and a genuine person,” Schaaf said. “My father didn’t trust many people like he did Joe with his business.”

Joe Grillo was a wonderful gentleman and father that loved everyone, Edna Grillo said.

And she loved him.

“I was next to him for 66 years, and I wouldn’t change one day,” she said.

Myer Lee: (409) 683-5247; and on Twitter @thesquarescriv.


Myer joined The Daily News in later 2020 after previously working at our sister newspaper the Del Rio News-Herald.

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