Joe Friscia. Proud to have called him my friend.
TORRINGTON: My friend Joe Friscia didn't lose his battle with Pancreatic Cancer.
Heaven simply needed him and if anyone who had the privilege to know Joe understood, if he was needed, he went.
Joe Friscia made this world a better place to live by being part of it, by sharing his contagious smile and boundless enthusiasm with anyone he ran into.
I didn't know Joe all that long, just over two years but he left a permanent mark on my soul that I can never thank him enough for.
His devotion to his family and friends is an everlasting gift. Find me a picture of Joe without his arm around somebody and that big, permanent smile, can't do it.
Even after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, his spirits never wavered. With the help of his remarkable wife Leslie and children Jenn and Jimmy, the family took to the business of battling this beast.
The community of Torrington, one I am convinced has a heart of gold and an unwavering ability to support those in need, reached out to the family in large fashion, doing whatever it took to make sure things in the Friscia house were taken care of so the focus could be on the fight.
A benefit was held for Joe back in September of 2016 at Chatterley's Banquet Facility and we, the community, showed up in droves, filling both rooms at the facility.
The smile that Joe wore that night and the jokes he told as he thanked the crowd of friends and family who were lucky enough to be on hand made it a night to remember.
You see with cancer, the private battles are unbelievably hard, one needs the love that comes from a gathering like that to get you through the tough days of chemo treatments or the sick days that inevitably come.
Joe was back on the sidelines to watch his son Jimmy play for the Torrington boys soccer team last fall from his customary spot in the bleachers, a section that should now be called "Joe's Corner".
It was there, watching with Leslie and Jenn as Jimmy flashed around the pitch as he attacked the opposition goal with the same passion his father was attacking his ailment.
Strength is something that is tested in a mighty way when one is faced with an unrelenting enemy that silently grows inside you.
The Friscia family showed their community just what the definition of strength was as they did not sit back and feel sorry for themselves.
In June of this year, we honored Joe with the Litchfield County Sports Courage Award at our annual banquet, held right back at Chatterley's.
The night was made when this brave family walked with grace into the room with the trademark smile of Joe leading the way.
He was a rock star, a guy who was more interested in how you were doing than the other way around, a true sign of a man with a heart of gold.
When the Litchfield County Sports Magazine made its debut in May of this year, I made sure I dropped off a copy of the first two editions to his door.
Each time, regardless of the day, Joe would greet me with a hug and leave me with a "love you brother" and I would do the same.
Those were the last words I had a chance to say to my friend, who once told me that we were instant friends the moment we meant.
I get a feeling there are countless others out there who got the same response from a man who simply loved life and those he came in touch with.
So, when you lay your head down tonight and can count yourself as one of Joe Friscia's friends, let that smile run ear to ear because that was the gift of this man who is now pain free in heaven, watching over us and waiting for the fall sports season at THS to get underway so he can take his customary seat in the home bleacher section of the Robert H Frost Complex.
I'm a better person to have known you Joe, love you brother.