JOSEPH MARK Rodia could teach us all about courage and the power of prayer.

A 29-year employee of Merit Oil Co., he suddenly found himself without a job when the company was bought by the Hess Corp. in 2000 and he was laid off.

Rather than mope about it, he went back to his alma mater, St. Joseph's University, and got a dual degree in special education and elementary education and started a teaching career.

And when he was critically ill, first with bone marrow cancer and then a brain tumor, his recovery, with the help of St. Padre Pio, amazed his doctors to the extent that they wanted to use his experience as a case study.

Joseph died of a blood infection Thursday at the age of 54. He lived in Mount Royal, Gloucester County, N.J., but had lived for years in Southwest Philadelphia.

"Of all the medicines he used, the one that the family used worked the most and that was prayer," said his son, Christopher "Krip" Rodia. "He prayed to Padre Pio daily and held family gatherings at his house on Wednesdays to pray the rosary.

"I always told him that not too many people in this world get to beat two cancers, but that's what he did."

Joseph was born the youngest of the six children of Louis and Ann Rodia. He graduated from West Catholic High School in 1971, where two years ago he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

He received his undergraduate degree from St. Joseph's while working full-time at Merit Oil.

After he lost his job with Merit, he taught mathematics and social studies to sixth graders and was the special education coordinator at Young Scholars Charter School.

He founded the school's basketball team and became director of the after-school program.

He also stepped up to become the business manager to help the school out of some fiscal troubles.

Joseph was a coach for more than 25 years.

He coached his sons when they were playing and continued to volunteer his time for other kids. He was president of the St. Barnabas Catholic Youth Organization for many years.

In the summer of 2003, he went for a routine checkup and it was found that he had myelofibrosis, bone marrow cancer.

While being treated, he suffered a seizure in December 2005. The diagnosis was that he had a brain tumor, the most severe type.

"His first thought was that he didn't want to be a burden on his family," his son said.

"He thought of everybody but himself."

After two successful brain surgeries, the tumor eventually shrank. He received radiation and chemotherapy treatments during his procedures and doctors were amazed that they didn't make him sick and that he had beaten the cancers.

"The chemo worked and the prayers worked," Christopher said.

Joseph was a popular guy who had many friends. Last Dec. 3, more than 800 friends and family members joined in a benefit for him to help with some of his medical expenses.

It included a walk through Franklin D. Roosevelt Park and an event at the Lagoon in Essington.

"My father was most proud of his family," his son said. "He worried more about his sons and his family than he did himself.

"He loved his grandchildren so much. He didn't want to ever be a burden on them with his illness. There was nothing in the world that he wouldn't do for them.

"He was a family man and a gentleman. He touched so many lives wherever he went."

Besides his son, he is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, the former Veronica Scott; three other sons, Joseph, Frankie and Andrew Matt; two sisters, Mary DiBernardino and Patricia Maier; a brother, John; and two grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Barnabas Church, 6300 Buist Ave.

Friends may call at 6:30 this evening at the church and at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple. *