He was 91 and lived in Center City. He had previously lived in Juniata, Mayfair and Fishtown after moving here from North Jersey.
He married the former Irene Pochek in 1940.
A painting he did of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee, as described in the Gospel of St. Mark, will be exhibited at his funeral.
"It is so alive," said his son, a Lutheran minister. "His works are very much alive."
When his father turned 90 in 2010, he was treated to an exhibit of most of his paintings at Atonement Lutheran Church, on Montgomery Avenue, where Joseph Jr. was acting pastor.
"He said it was the one time in his life that he could see all he did," his son said.
Joseph F. Varsanyi was born in South River, N.J., in Middlesex County, one of the six children of John Varsanyi, an immigrant from Budapest, Hungary, and Barbara Lizon, an immigrant from Vetes, Hungary.
He attended Woodbridge High School, but dropped out before graduating.
He joined the Army and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division. He fought with the "Hell on Wheels" division, as it was called, in North Africa, Sicily, France and Germany.
He told the story about the time he was resting near a tank and looked up to see a German soldier standing over him. He thought, this was it. He was going to die. Turned out the German wanted to surrender.
"He saw a lot of combat," his son said. "He told about bullets whizzing past his head and crawling on his belly to escape gunfire."
After the war, Joseph went to work for General Motors in Linden, N.J., where he was active in the United Auto Workers Union. He worked the assembly line, drove a forklift truck, and did other manual jobs.
He retired after 30 years and went on to pursue a number of odd jobs, like driving a school bus and sign-painting. And all the while, he pursued his art.
An avid baseball fan, he made a portrait of Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.
After arriving in Philly, Joseph switched his allegiance from the Yankees to the Phillies.
He accumulated Phillies shirts, caps and other souveniers and got an occasional ride to the stadium to see his heroes in the flesh.
His son came to Philadelphia in 1980 and was associated with St. Phillips Church of the Deaf, at 3101 Tyson Ave. Joseph Sr. and his wife would come from North Jersey to attend services.
They followed their son to other churches, and eventually moved to Philadelphia to be close to their only child.
Joseph was a Democrat, a supporter of President Obama and a strong advocate for the labor movement.
As a golfer at local courses, Joseph was no Arnold Palmer, but he was thrilled when he almost scored a hole-in-one. The ball landed a foot and a half from the hole, and a cop nearby called out, "Good shot, Arnie!"
When his son visited Budapest some years ago, he brought back a canister from the Buda side of the Danube, where his father was born.
"He burst into tears when he saw it," Joseph Jr. said.
When he was hospitalized, Joseph made friends with doctors and nurses, who called him "Pop." One of them once asked him if he had been in the war, and when he said he had, the nurse said, "Thank you."
"He was greatly moved. It was the first time anyone had thanked him for his service," said his son, who is now the chaplain of the Jefferson University Methodist Division.
His wife died in 2009.
Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Church of the Holy Communion, 21st and Chestnut streets. Friends may call at 10 a.m.
Contact John F. Morrison at email@example.com or 215-854-5573.