Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dad's obituary

Although this obituary doesn't begin to describe dad's life and loves. it's a start. The rest we hope to fill in with your stories. Thanks in advance for your comments and know how much we love reading them. For the technologically challenged, just hit comment below this or any of the posts and write. We will compile all of these into a book that his children and grandchildren will treasure. If you want your comments to appear in the program we are creating for the funeral, please post them before Tuesday night. Otherwise take as much time as you need.

Note that the formal service on the 29th starts at 11:30 contrary to a previous post, but other details re hotels etc are accurate. Another hotel recommendation is the Fairfield Inn & Suites , 2215 N. Atherton St.

Joseph Tocci, 84, of State College, died January 21, 2010 surrounded by friends and family at the Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, PA. He was born July 16, 1925 in Ridgewood, Queens, NY; son of the late Joseph Nicholas and Julia Martin Tocci.

On August 16, 1952, he married the love of his life, Dolores Asper, with whom he shared 54 years of marriage. She preceded him in death on May 3, 2007.

Joe graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens, NY in 1943. Upon graduation from High School he enlisted and served in the U. S. Navy from July 15, 1943 to March 12, 1946, and during World War II he served on the Aircraft Carrier USS Card in anti-submarine duty in the North Atlantic. He earned the American, Asiatic, Victory and European Theatre Medals.

Upon his honorable discharge, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Human Development at Penn State University in 1950 on the GI Bill. While studying at Penn State, he co-captained the Penn State basketball team and is listed as one of the 50 greatest basketball players in Penn State History. Also while on the Varsity baseball squad, he was named all Eastern All-Star second baseman in the 1949 and 1950 seasons. In 1958 he earned a Master of Education degree at Penn State University. He went on to complete a thirty credit, sixth year certificate program at Bridgeport University in Bridgeport Conn.

Joe Tocci served as a Physical Education Instructor and freshman basketball coach at Penn State from 1950 – 1951. In 1951 through 1953 coach Tocci taught Phys Ed, Social Studies and coached at Blairsville High School. From 1953 to 1963 he taught Phys Ed and served as a coach at Mansfield High School. Returning to State College in 1963, he taught Phys Ed and served as an assistant basketball coach at Penn State University until 1968. In 1968 he moved his family to Trumbull Ct, where he coached basketball, golf, cross country and tennis, and taught Phys Ed. He led several teams to compete in their respective state championships. In 1986, he and his wife Dolores retired to State College. Coach Tocci’s continued relationships, some spanning over 50 years, with former teammates, players and students is an example of the impact he made on people’s lives.

Joe was a devout Catholic and belonged to Our Lady of Victory Church in State College. He was a most enthusiastic supporter of Penn State athletics, and was an active member of the Penn State Nittany Lion Club.

Surviving are his daughter M. J. Tocci and her husband Jonathan Rest of Pittsburgh, two sons, Joseph Michael Tocci and his wife Susan of Belmont, MA and Timothy John Tocci of Pittsburgh, four grandchildren, Sam, Zoe, Catherine and Joey, and one sister Dorothy Tocci and life long family friend Margaret Wigiser of Hobe Sound. FL.

A memorial mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. on January 29th, 2010 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 820 Westerly Parkway, State College with Msgr Lockard as Celebrant. Family and friends will be received one hour prior to the memorial mass. Graveside services and burial will be in Blairsville Cemetery, Blairsville, PA at 1 p.m. on January 30th, where he will be buried alongside his beloved wife Dolores.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Forbes Hospice, 115 S. Neville Street, Pittsburgh Pa, 15213


  1. About Joe Tocci:

    I got to know Joe when MJ and were dating back in the 1980’s. He and Dolores would often come to visit and I remember a couple of trips we made to Connecticut when they lived there. I always felt at home in their company, whether in person or on the phone, which was how I would occasionally keep in touch. One time I went to Trumbull to attend a roast for Joe on the occasion of his retirement. As the evening went on and the speeches became more and more amusing, you could tell how much affection and respect people had for Joe. He had a rare generosity of spirit and a constant sense of humor.

    Among the many memories of Joe, two stand out because they always have and always will make me smile. A conversation with Joe would never go by him slipping in some gag about this or that, and he had a special point he always liked to bring up with me. It related (of course) to basketball. Back then I was training a lot and competing in triathlons. Joe used to rib me about the sport: “Basketball players are the best athletes in the world,” he’d opine with an air of mock superiority, the implication being that triathlons were, as Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, for “girly men.” Somehow, whatever the topic of conversation, he’d manage to work this little quip in. He had a standup comedian’s timing for the punchline, and we’d laugh about it every time.

    Anyone who knew Joe knew that he was an avid and considerable card player. He had his favorite games, at which he was tough to beat however unfavorably the cards went for him. Frustrated at always losing I decided to level the playing field. One day I challenged him to a game of cribbage, a game he’d never played (or so he said - I never did find out). Thinking my knowledge of the game gave me a big advantage I explained the rules to him and confidently dealt the cards. Five hands late he’d beaten me, by a huge point margin. It was a colossal defeat and I immediately started to deal for the next game. But Joe refused to play again, arguing that I wasn’t up to his level of play...! Every time I saw him after that I’d challenge him to another game, but he never relented. It became another big joke between us.

    Remembering Joe reminded me of Dutch historian Johan Huizinga's ideas about the unique role of play in human life. Not subordinate to any other adaptive activity, Huizinga thought, "play has a special function of its own in human experience." I learned this first hand from Joe, who well understood the value of play for its own sake. It was one of the ways be communicated his warmth and respect towards others, friends and family alike. When you sat down to a game with Joe you could leave the day’s worries behind and enjoy, for a brief time, the ease and familiarity of a true friendship. I wish I’d gotten a chance to get even at cribbage, but with Joe, as with any true friend, you could always delight in winning or losing - the result didn’t much matter, the enjoyment was all in the game.

    Always remembering,


  2. In trying to sum up my feelings about Pap Pap, I looked for some basketball quotes. I found a couple of doozies. Here are two:

    "Fans never fall asleep at our games, because they're afraid they might get hit by a pass."


    "We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors."

    Somehow I imagine these describing the experience a lot of basketball coaches, Joe Tocci included. And I can remember him telling these kinds of stories - he had a million of them. A life in basketball does that to you. But I also ran across another quote:

    "Basketball doesn't build character it reveals it."

    This one seems like it was written with Joe in mind. "______ doesn't build character, it reveals it." You can pretty much fill in the blank here. Whether it was golf or baseball or football or volleyball or archery or pool, Joe understood the essence of what made them all work. And his ability to teach those sports to others - sometimes without ever having played himself - revealed the character behind Joe Tocci. Somehow, his advice about a golf swing became something more - a lesson in how to pay attention to the things that matter life...of not forsaking the forest for the trees. He told me once that the key to coaching is not only knowing the right advice, but also knowing which advice your student has the ability to hear.

    That's the grandfather my children were lucky enough to have. And that's the father-in-law who sat with me explaining the intricacies of pass interference when I was clueless.

    And when we helped him steer through the maze of the health care system to deal with his melanoma, he did it again. It was if he knew what mattered. We got caught up in the drama of the moment, be he was steady and understanding. He approached his melanoma the same way he approached teaching a golf swing. "Keep your head down". Don't worry about the stuff that doesn't matter. He took it way better than we did.

    So indeed - melanomas don't build character, they reveal it. And we were all fortunate enough to be around when it happened to Joe.


  3. I played for Coach Tocci from 1972-1974. He taught us so many things that we all use today in our everyday existence: teamwork, perseverance, persistence, dedication, and respect. I was fortunate enough to play for the last basketball team he coached at Trumbull High School. Coach....may you rest in God's heavenly care with Dolores.

    God Bless.

    Vin Laczkoski
    Class of 1974, Trumbull High School

  4. Coach Tocci and I many times didn't see eye to eye.
    We couldn't, as most of the time, I was at the end of the bench. However, those qualities as Vinny describes above, taught us our life lessons. Sometimes it didn't hit until later in life that "ah ha" moment of that's what he was trying to teach me.

    Mrs. Tocci had a great knack of giving you a wink when you most needed it and the hospitality
    at your home was always warm. I enjoyed reading this journal and wish you all "Good Grief".

    Tom Kelly

  5. I met Joe and Delores Tocci shortly after Delores fell from a ladder and could no longer clean for herself. I got a call from Joe, he was looking for someone to clean their home in Boalsburg. He got my name and number from a newspaper ad and it was a blessing for all of us. I met with them and wow..what nice people, I have been cleaning for Joe ever since. We usually chat a bit while I work, he usually was watching some kind of sports on tv at the same time. I really enjoyed working for Joe and Delores. They will both be sadly missed.
    God Bless.
    Tina Marvin

  6. The place was Fairfield University. It was the venue for the semi-final game of the 1974 CIAC basketball championship. In the standing room only facility there were over 3,000 basketball fans in attendance to watch undefeated Brien McMahon High School of Norwalk, the FCIAC champions versus the Trumbull High School Eagles. What the anxious crowd did not realize was that they were about to witness what could arguably be called the greatest game ever played by Trumbull High School under the coaching stewardship of Joe Tocci.

    Trumbull was clearly the underdog having lost twice to McMahon, once during the regular season, and in the FCIAC championship game. The odds were clearly in favor of McMahon to win and move on to CIAC championship at the New Haven Coliseum. What we all witnessed that night was special, a feat not matched in Trumbull High School basketball since. Under Coach Tocci’s leadership, the Trumbull Eagles’ were victorious.

    Having the privilege of being a part of that team, I hold many memories from that special basketball season. Lifelong friendships were forged and teamwork disciplines were honed. We all learned that sacrifice, determination and perseverance were lifelong qualities and not something we left on the court. Thanks Coach.

    John Rolleri (THS 1975)

  7. We were lucky enough to live next door to Joe and Dolores for the better part of 2 decades. They watched our children grow up, and we watched them become grandparents themselves. I don't think that I've ever witnessed more love in a family than I saw between Joe and Dolores and their children and grandchildren. It was a sad day for us when they had to move away. We would share jokes about who would mow their lawn first, etc. They were very special people, and they are missed.

  8. I don't have anything witty or any stories that I can write about and I have never played on a sports team when I was in high school. However, I did have Coach Tocci for gym class at Trumbull High School from 1970 - 1972. Gym class was not my favorite class but Mr. Tocci was the nicest gym teacher and a great guy which really made a difference in my attitude about the class. I can see by reading all of the comments in his blog that he has a wonderful family and many friends. My thoughts and prayers are with them. Coach Tocci you will be missed, rest in peace.

    Dave Jaconette (THS 1972)

  9. Lennie and Ken SlocumbJanuary 26, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    We had the pleasure of living next door to Joe and Delores during our time in Willowbrook. We couldn't have asked for better neighbors. There was always a joke about which neighbor got their lawn mowed first...............we had many funny messages on our answering machine from Joe stating that if we didn't get our lawn mowed soon, he was going to report us to the township. Of course, that was always after he had just gotten his lawn all nicely trimmed!! And we always looked forward to Delores sharing some of her yummy taboule salad. It was the best. They were a true example of a "loving couple". They had so much love for each other and their family. How fortunate we were to have known them.

  10. Ann and Len GermanoJanuary 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    We spent many wonderful, fun filled hours with Joe and Dolores here in Trumbull. We treasured their friendship. Joe was truly a gentleman; he had a great sense of humor, always a twinkle in his eye and a ready chuckle. Joe loved his children and grandchildren; he was so proud of them and often had a story or two to tell about what was happening in their lives. He so looked forward to their coming home...not only to see them but also because Dolores would put aside her strict diet for him and he would get to "really eat and have some of Dolores's best meals" We remember one time when Joe went to NYC to a basketball tournament with Len, Coach McDougall and some other coaches from Trumbull High. They stayed out to celebrate the games and their friendship.....until the very wee hours of the morning. This was an unusual event for Joe. Dolores woke as Joe was washing up and getting ready for bed. "Joe, what's wrong? Why are you up so early", said Dolores. Joe said "Oh, I couldn't sleep and so I decided to go in really early and get some reports done" He put on a clean shirt and went to work. Dolores never knew he had been out all night and the rest of us were sworn to secrecy! God bless you, Joe Tocci: you were a great man, an inspiring coach and a wonderful friend.

  11. Memories of the Tocci house in Trumbull, from a friend of the family: the tally posted on the side of the refrigerator, to keep track of who won how many card games; Mrs. Tocci counting out how many peanuts Mr. Tocci was allowed to eat, per his post-heart-attack diet (and much to Coach’s dismay!); Coach calling Mrs. Tocci every single day at lunchtime. “He calls me every day at lunchtime”, she said with pride and love as the phone rang… “He always has.” Most of my memories of Coach Tocci are of he and his wife together, because that is how I usually saw them: together. It’s been many years since I was able to enjoy the pleasure of their company on a regular and frequent basis, and yet it takes no effort to remember the sounds of their individual laughters, and when I do I notice I am smiling. Even in memory their laughter is contagious! I have always, and will forever, picture Coach Tocci with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. Like Mrs. Tocci his fun came hand-in-hand with warm friendship and affection. And there was something about the way he gave a compliment that makes you remember it forever. It is with the same warm affection that I remember them both. Farewell & God speed, Coach Tocci. Until we meet again…

  12. Of all my sweet thoughts of Uncle Joe, I like to recall his voice. It was steady and mellow sounding and conveyed confidence and conviction. It was an understanding and reassuring voice full of humor and humanness. I loved his voice and I loved him.

    As a coach and teacher at Blairsville High School in the 50's Uncle Joe was my Civics instructor. He was no-nonsense in the classroom and I always felt he was too hard on me. However, I loved the fact that he was dating my beautiful Aunt Dolores. It made me really popular with the athletes and with my friends.

  13. I just heard the news about the Coach. He played a big part in my life as he encouraged me at a time I needed it most. His "encouragement" had many faces but I truly appreciate the concern he had for me when I played for him. I was there in Trumbull for he the 0-20 season and he never lost his faith in his players or himself, it was an example of leadership and determination with constant humor mixed in that I will not forget.
    He was my Coach and I am proud to have known him and played for him.
    Charlie Zacharias

  14. The athletes at Trumbull High School were indeed lucky to have a trio of great coaches in the late 60's thru the mid 80's. Coach Tocci was the one I went to with my problems, questions and concerns. Quiet, yet overtly honest. Firm and yet so warm-hearted. He would just give you that gentle smile and you knew things were OK. Years after graduating, Coach went out of his way to congratulate me on my first state title in coaching. That meant a lot to me and he seemed to take as much pride in it as I did.

    God bless you coach.

    Ray Lapinski

  15. I had the utmost respect and enjoyed having Coach Tocci as my Cross-Country Coach in 79' and 80'. Can't tell you how many times I wish I jumped in his car during practice when he passed by me sometimes! LOL I'm happy to hear that his family and friends were by his side before his passing. God bless you all.

    Art Torres
    THS 81'