In his seven years as coach for the Cardinal Spellman High School football team, Joseph Thomas DeSimone went to three title games and won two championships. But DeSimone was much more than a coach.
Those who knew him said that DeSimone was the neighbor who would shovel neighbors’ snow and make sure to give kids a friendly scare as he handed out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters. He was a dad, husband, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.
In 2006 he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and succumbed to the disease 14 years later on Oct. 22 at the age of 65.
DeSimone was the youngest of three born to Thomas and Innocenza “Jeanie” DeSimone, who had come from Italy. As a child, the south Bronx native quickly fell in love with sports and spent his days playing basketball, football and baseball.
DeSimone joined Con Edison in 1978 and was there until his retirement in 2015. He worked with jackhammers, picks and shovels, excavating steam pipe and washed up at the end of the day at the nearest hydrant.
“I recall the many times in the meeting room when we were ‘fighting the bear,’ I observed many eyes look towards Joe for his guidance and wisdom,”said his first and longtime supervisor at Con Ed, Philip Sullivan. “If there is a steam main in heaven, that’s where Joe can be found. There is an old Irish complimentary saying that I quote when I picture my friend: ‘Take a good look at him now boys because you will never see the likes of him again.'”
In 1979 he married Catherine Beaton and the couple raised five children in Pelham Bay. Soon. the kids joined the Bronx Warriors Football program as players and cheerleaders and their dad followed as coach. He coached with the Warriors for more than 25 years and even served as president from 2015 to 2018.
“When football season ended, Coach Joe and the boys spent spring and summer with Bronxchester Little League, and the Pelham Bay Belles with his daughters,” said his daughter Alexis De Simone Pereira. “Joe overflowed with pride as his sons Anthony, Joseph and Lawrence developed that same bone-deep love for sports as little leaguers, then high school and later celebrated college athletes.”
DeSimone eventually joined Cardinal Spellman, where he coached both junior varsity and varsity football. He led the team to two Division City Championships in 2006 and 2008 and was inducted into Spellman High School Hall of Fame in 2018.
Dan Kern and Steve Ward, who played at Spellman from 2004 to 2007, reflected on their former coach.
Kern, 31, who is a cop in the Bronx, told the Bronx Times that DeSimone taught him it’s not just important to be successful on the field, but rather a good person off of it.
“He was just a great coach,” Kern said. “The way he reached out to young kids, I want to do the same thing.”
Ward, 31, of Co-op City, echoed Kern’s sentiments. He recalled how DeSimone always made him put school first, helped him with getting job interviews and stressed how much first impressions matter.
“He was a great guy. He taught me a lot about the game and life,” Ward said.
In 2019, DeSimone was honored by the Morris Park Community Association for his involvement with Little League baseball and football in the Bronx.
DeSimone was also was a favorite among Yankee stadium tour guides and a bartender at Jimmy Ryan’s in Pelham Bay.
Family meant everything to him and he spent much of his time the zoo and playgrounds with his grandchildren.
“Joe’s family was his life and with a family this big, he was part of a family that was larger than life,” De Simone Pereira said. “This summer as Joe began his last battle, in between treatments and exhaustion, he created with his grandchildren lasting memories of learning to roller skate around Pelham Bay Park, walking dogs and scavenging ‘treasure’ along its wooded trails, and holding the leash of his best friend Jeter as they enjoyed family, togetherness and nature’s peace.”