JOSEPH DIGIUSEPPE was a political junkie with a cantankerous streak.

If he was in a group of people who were espousing one side of a political argument, Joe would take the other side.

Sure, he had his own opinions, but he kept an open mind and liked to hear what all sides had to say on the issues.

And he knew the issues. He read four newspapers a day, plus news and opinion magazines, and listened to the talking heads on TV discussing politics.

DiGiuseppe, who was a retired deputy city solicitor who specialized in bankruptcy cases in which the city had an interest, a piano player who could belt out a mean version of the "Charlie Brown Christmas Party" theme, and a coach who showed his son how to knock the baseball off the tee, died Monday of bone cancer. He was 51 and was a lifelong resident of South Philadelphia.

Joe, who left his city job for health reasons, began his career in the solicitor's office almost immediately after getting his law degree from Temple University. And he pretty much cornered the office's work on bankruptcy cases that were costing the city tax money.

Of course, Joe could play more than the Charlie Brown theme on his piano, but most of his music preferences were early rock 'n' roll, Beatles songs, and the like.

"He was a very social guy, very extroverted," said his wife, Theresa Timlin. "He would walk into a party and by the end of the night he would have talked to everyone in the room and made connections with them. He couldn't walk down the street without running into people who knew him."

Even traveling the world, it was rare that he didn't run into somebody from Philly.

"We were in the Art Museum in Chicago, and he met somebody who knew him," she said. "It happened in the airport in Rome."

Joe was born in South Philadelphia to Joseph DiGiuseppe and the former Carmella Mercanti. His father had been in the Army in World War II and fought at Iwo Jima.

Joe attended St. Thomas Aquinas Parochial School and graduated from Central High School, Class 235, in 1976. He went on to Columbia University, where he took a degree in journalism.

He thought he might want to be a journalist, but he came back to Philly and attended Temple Law School, graduating in 1989.

Joe was a great outdoorsman and loved to hike in national parks like Glacier, in Montana, Cape Breton, in Canada and Arcadia, in Maine.

He also liked to meet up with the kids he hung out with on the corners of South Philly, and haunt used record and book stores.

Joe and his wife traveled to Kazakhstan to adopt their son, Joseph Ruslan, now 7. Doing things with his son became his primary recreation, including coaching him in a T-ball league.

Joe and Theresa, an administrative law judge for the Department of Labor, met on a subway train.

"He saw me reading the Nation and he started talking to me," she said. "He didn't recognize me, but I knew him from having met him before. I reminded him about that and we exchanged business cards. "He was the funniest guy I ever met, and the nicest. We dated for a long time before we got married in 2000."

Joe was a member of the board of the Friends of the Free Library and was also active with the Columbia Club of Philadelphia and Sons of Italy.

Besides his wife and son, he is survived by his mother, and a sister, Joanne Banecker.

Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Friday at Old St. Joseph's Church, 4th and Walnut streets. Friends may call at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Pennsylvania Burial Co., 1327 S. Broad St. Burial will be in Ss. Peter & Paul Cemetery, Marple.

Donations may be made to Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia, attn.: Amy Dougherty, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia 19103.