Baseball

       


Joseph A. Faccone

March 31, 2019

There were many things Joe Faccone loved in his life, chief among them Catholicism, baseball and the young people in his classrooms and on his teams.

Catholicism brought him his faith, a constant calling he followed all of his life. Baseball brought him his career, a dugout-full of lifelong friends and joy. His students mattered most. He adored his Seattle Faccone family and their Rainier Valley home - where he lived all of his life, and then Sheri, his partner, brought him a second Italian-American family, also in Seattle. They only added to Joe's love of family and all things Italian.

Joe died March 31, 2019 with those loves firmly intact.

Joe was born in Seattle to Mary and Dominic Faccone. Along with his brother Louis and his sister Carmela, the family lived on 23rd, a street nearly everyone of Italian descent in the area knew, because so many Italians lived there. Joe graduated from Seattle Preparatory School and then Seattle University. Later, he taught and coached baseball at Highline High School in Burien, at Our Lady of Mt. Virgin School in Seattle, and finally John F. Kennedy Memorial High School in Burien.

And there was baseball - Joe played as a kid, he played at Prep, earned a baseball scholarship to Seattle U and then coached SU's varsity team while still in his 20s, first serving as assistant under the legendary Al Brightman and then taking over as head coach where he led the SU baseball team to some of its best records. Next came Highline and Mount Virgin and then he landed the head baseball coaching job at the then brand new Kennedy High School where he worked diamond wonders. He coached for 38 years there, leaving the post in 2007, amassed more than 500 wins, won two state championships (including the very first championship for the state's new 4A division), seven league championships, made the Sweet Sixteen 15 times, and was named Coach of the Year four times.

Joe was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the Seattle University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.

In 2014, Kennedy's ball field was named Faccone Field, in honor of Joe. It's a field, literally, that he built along with his father Dominic when Kennedy opened. Until his final turn as coach, you'd find Joe out on the diamond, prior to the games, inspecting or grooming the playing surface. You'd find him there, too, with his team, reciting the Memorare, a prayer to the Virgin Mary, Joe's favorite, before every game. Faith and baseball.

But you'd never hear Joe talk about those things - certainly none of the honors. Never. Instead, he talked about everybody else, among them his two staff sidekicks, John Ruffo and Bob Babbitt.

They met practically on Joe's first day at Kennedy. "He came walking down the hallway, pointed at Bob Babbitt and me and said, 'you're my bus driver and you're my scorekeeper, and he just kept walking,'" Ruffo remembers. And that was that. The trio's lifelong friendship started that day. Ruffo stayed with Joe's team all of his 38 years at Kennedy. Babbitt for 25 of them.

He never would have told you that he was responsible for getting a Seattle Prep pitcher, Paul Dempsey, a full-ride baseball scholarship to Seattle U. Dempsey didn't have the money or the grades to do it on his own. But Joe watched over him. Years later, after Monsignor John Doogan hired Joe at Kennedy, Paul Dempsey - then principal at Kennedy - hired Joe as the school's first head baseball coach.

Joe didn't dwell on anything he'd done. It wasn't his style.

But what he did for others, how he coached them, encouraged them, taught them and listened, are memories riveted in the lives of the countless students, players and people who became his friends. They were legion.

Joe's philosophy was never demean a student, never call on someone who isn't ready. Joe wasn't the toughest teacher, but he taught his students how to live and to be better people. And to this day, Sheri sees the evidence. "It's Mr. Faccone. It's Mr. Faccone. Best teacher we ever had!" - a common refrain when former students would spot him years later. 

Joe would say he was a teacher first. Before everything else. 

Joe was a lifelong Mariner's ticketholder, though he loved the Yankees, too. His season tickets allowed him to see the Yankees - live.

There was yet another love. Food. Good food. Italian food. He got it at home growing up and he got it at the homes of any number of Sheri's extended family. And he got it at his three favorite Seattle-area restaurants: Vito's (the original, back in the day), Carmine's (the original in Pioneer Square) and Angelo's (with branches in Burien and Bellevue - the former not that far from Kennedy and owned by friends the Ricci family, which cinched the deal as a personal favorite). Try his Christmas Eve special - pasta with anchovies. And if anyone made pasta with chanterelles for Joe, that person became a friend for life. 

Everyone knew where they would find Sheri and Joe nearly every weekend - at Carmine's or one of the Angelo's. For Joe, New Year's Eve was a special occasion at Carmine's, with at least 15 family and friends seated around him. 

One more dinner became a centerpiece of Joe's mission: The Father Evoy Dinner (named for a Jesuit pastor at Mt. Virgin) every September, at Our Lady of Mount Virgin, begun more than 20 years ago and running to this day. At first, the dinner provided scholarship money to Kennedy mainly for immigrant Laotian students at Mount Virgin, students whose families had few resources. Later, the The Evoy Scholarship was offered to all students to assist with tuition. Joe's efforts raised thousands of dollars over the years for Kennedy.

During his years at Kennedy, Joe also taught world history. And appropriately, at Highline, Joe taught driver training. Appropriate because he was famous for the pristine, gleaming white Buick Riviera which he owned for decades. A perfect match. He said he had never found any car quite as good.

There is so much more to say about this accomplished and kind man. The "Joe" stories are not hard to find - just ask anyone who knew him and be prepared to sit for a time while the stories unfold. You will be charmed, impressed, inspired and humbled. You will laugh and you will cry. And it will all be good - because that was simply and completely Joe. And he was handsome.

Joe was preceded in death by his sister and brother, Carmela and Louis. Family members whom he loved and saw or spoke with regularly and who now survive him are his niece Maria Faccone (Dan Blair) of California, nephew Louis Faccone Jr. of Seattle, nephew Geno Faccone (Melinda), great nephews Michael (Tonia) and Aaron Faccone, great great nieces Hailey and Christina and several cousins. A special thank you to his cousins JoAnn and Wes Paulson. 

Remembrances can be made to: Father Evoy Scholarship Fund. Kennedy High School 

A Funeral Mass in Joe's honor will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 13 at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Church, 2800 S Massachusetts St, Seattle.


Donations may be made to:

Father Evoy Scholarship Fund. Kennedy High School
140 S 140th St, Burien WA 98163
Tel: 1-206-957-9718
Web: https://www.kennedyhs.org/support-us/scholarships


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