The Winning Ways of Joe Nastasi

The Winning Ways of Joe Nastasi

If you're a baby boomer and sports enthusiast and reside in west-central Pennsylvania, chances are you are aware of the athletic accomplishments of the Joe Nastasi family. From Barnesboro's Northern Cambria High School, Joe and his twin brother Tony are well known as part of a state champion basketball team that put that school district on the map in the mid-sixties. Both were fiery competitors who were known to give their all in multiple sports, from tennis to football and basketball. Joe later added to his accolades when he played football at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

He extended his competitive attributes well beyond his playing days too. He went on to successfully coach both basketball and football at Northern Bedford where he earned the reputation as a give-it-your-all winner. If you played under Coach Nastasi, you came away not only a better athlete, you came away a better person, too.

Inheriting good genes

Later on, Joe's son's Joe Jr. and A.J. continued the tradition, accumulating laurels that earned huge notoriety for the Northern Bedford County School District. Joe Jr. won the Small School State Football Player of the Year Award and A.J. set the State Career Scoring Record in Basketball for the state of Pennsylvania. Joe went on to start as a wide receiver at Penn State and even served a stint at the professional level. A.J. started as a wide-out too, at West Virginia. Both sons enjoyed stellar sports careers.

Passing on the athletic attributes again, seemed inevitable. Joe Sr.'s grandsons, Joe Nastasi III at State College High School and Dominic Dodson at Pittsburgh Central Catholic are both standouts in football. Their schools are PIAA 6A football powerhouses.

But there's more to the man

Athletics aside – there's much more to Joe Nastasi's make up that the public may not know. Next to my dad and father-in-law, no one assisted me more than he did when it came time to build my house in the late seventies. He was here, learning with me as we proceeded along (with other friends and family), turning raw lumber and blueprints into the home where my wife and I raised our kids and where we still reside today.

I recall one day when I arrived at the building site on a June morning and Joe was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later, after he parked his car, I noticed he had a bad limp as he hobbled toward me. I soon learned that he was on-site earlier and had tramped on a nail that went straight through his sneaker and into his foot. He drove himself to Doc Bulger's in New Enterprise where Doc plucked the rubber parts of the shoe sole from the wound and gave Joe a precautionary tetanus shot too. He continued to work that day, limping the entire time.

In recent years I experienced some major health set-backs, and during my hospital and re-hab stays, Joe was volunteering again here at our home. He let our dog out, ran errands and cut our grass, as needed when neither my wife (tending to her husband) nor I were able.

Just this month, Joe added yet another act to his lengthy list of labor assists . When we realized we would have a rough time downing some trees in our yard, Joe was quick to volunteer with his chainsaw and pickup truck, lending a hand as he has done so many times before. His firewood lies here today, to be picked up as promised whenever he wants.

My sweetie...
If you have an account on facebook, you might have noticed a joking reference between Joe and me. We may call each other “Sweetie” at times. Before any rumors get started, please allow me to explain.

A few years ago, Joe and I were chatting on the phone. He asked me a question that I could not answer without first consulting my wife. Now, keep in mind, she was glued to an episode of NCIS, starring Mark Harmon. [Editor's note: I can't help but believe that my wife, her mother, and numerous other ladies hold the beyond-handsome star in high regard. If my wife does not have such a crush on Harmon, then I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, as she apparently was merely mesmerized with the episode's plot.]

So, while on the phone, I said to Joe, “Hold on for a second and I'll ask Terri.”

Moving the phone away from my face, I tried to get her attention. “Sweetie,” I proclaimed. No answer.

With increasing decibels I repeated, “Sweetie.” Still, no answer.

This went on a number of times with my voice increasing in intensity each time. Finally, almost shrieking, I bellowed out another, “SWEETIE!!”

She glanced at me with a startled look on her face (apparently able to break away from Harmon's “kavorka”) and retorted in an equally intense manner, “WHAT?”

Then I asked, “Didn't you hear me the first five times I tried to get your attention?”

She replied, “Yes, but I thought you were talking to Joe.”

And from that day on, because my poor wife thought I was referring to Joe as my sweetie, that reference has become a joke between our two families.

To those that know him

You may think of Joe Nastasi as a fiery, competitive athlete, or as a dedicated coach. Or, maybe you can identify him as a man always willing to lend others a helping hand. If you're lucky, you may even know him to be a real sweetie at times, as he's often been to me, and of course to his lovely wife Rena and their family. In any event, there's one thing for certain – he is a winner in all that life embraces.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA