Joe Palumbo '47 died Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Joseph C. "Joe" Palumbo (born August 1, 1929) and is a longtime student, officer and graduate of Greenbrier Military School. He is a former All-American football guard, playing college football for the University of Virginia Cavaliers. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Services will be held Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 401 Alderman Road in Charlottesville, VA at 3 PM.
Joseph "Joe" Charles Palumbo
Joseph "Joe" Charles Palumbo, 84, of Charlottesville, passed away Thursday, December 5, 2013, surrounded by his family at the Hospice House on Park Street. Born August 1, 1929, in Beaver, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late John Palumbo and Lily Camarata Palumbo and was raised by Frank Palumbo. He is survived by his wife, Sandra Palumbo; two daughters, Page Palumbo married to James Hall of Manteo, North Carolina, and Penny Mahone married to Philip Mahone; his six grandchildren, Dr. Joseph Amory and partner, Chris Curatolo of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jayme Owen married to Adam Owen of Raleigh, North Carolina, Cory Amory, Alex Mahone, Drew Mahone, and Emma Mahone; great-grand son, Brody Owen; two sisters, Terri Regan, and Mary Elaine Bickers married to Duane Bickers; dog, Georgio; as well as his beloved nephews and nieces. The family would like to give a special thanks to Peggy Dame, Dr. Michael Salerno and Dr. Dan Becker as well as all of the wonderful people at the Hospice House for their loving, compassionate care.
Joe was a graduate of Greenbrier Military Academy in 1947. He then went on to attend the University of Virginia where he played three varsity seasons (1949-51) in which Virginia posted a 23-5 mark and recorded seven shutouts. He was a first-team All-America selection that season. He was a three-time All-State selection. In 1951, Joe received the Outstanding Defensive Lineman Award from the Touchdown Club of Washington, D.C., was named the state of Virginia's Athlete of the Year, and participated in the Blue-Gray All-Star Game. He jokingly prided himself on getting thrown out of more football games than any other player in UVa history. In addition, he served in the United States Army where he was All Army and All Service. He was then honorably discharged. Following his successful football career at UVa he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. After stints on the UVa football coaching staff, he then went on to establish a successful insurance agency based in Charlottesville. He married Sandra, the love of his life, in 1959. He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as well as Greenbrier Military Academy's Hall of Fame. Joe also received the Paul Harris Fellow recognition from the Rotary Club of Charlottesville and received the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Silver Hope Award from the MS Society's Blue Ridge Chapter, as well as numerous other awards. Joe is also one of only six football players at UVa to have his number retired. With his strong stature and never-ending love, he was better known as "Big" Joe by his family. He was a charismatic, personable, loyal, driven family man. Of all of his achievements, Big Joe was most proud of his daughters, all of his grandchildren, and great-grand son. He loved watching them grow up and each one carries a special piece of him in them. He was loved by many and will be greatly missed by all.
Following a private graveside service, the memorial mass will be held 3 p.m. Tuesday, December 10, 2013, at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church with Fr. Stephen Alcott, O.P., delivering the eulogy. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Joseph C. Palumbo Endowed Football Scholarship or the Hospice House on Park Street. Endowed Football Scholarship donations can be sent to the Virginia Athletics Foundation or contact Barry Parkhill at 434-243-3554. Friends may send condolences to the family at Hill and Wood Funeral Home, www.hillandwood.com
Ratcliffe: Virginia football loses one of its legends
Wahoo Nation lost one of its greatest legends late Wednesday night with the passing of Joe Palumbo.
A first-team All-America selection in 1951, Palumbo was regarded as the premier defensive lineman of his time. I was lucky enough to attend Palumbo’s College Football Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1999 when he received the greatest individual award any college player could ever dream about.
We could go on endlessly, it seems, about all the football honors the former Cavalier defensive lineman garnered during his lifetime (and we will in a follow article on Sunday), but what made Big Joe the loveable figure he was had little to do with his accomplishments on the gridiron. Palumbo was a family man. He loved people and enjoyed giving.
Three years ago, when Big Joe was honored at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Champion’s Dinner, some of his football deeds were mentioned, but his life was so much more.
While the evening was all about Joe, to him, it was all about giving back to the Charlottesville community and to Virginia football.
That night in 2010, Gene Corrigan summed up Palumbo in a few sentences.
“He’s a uniquely wonderful University of Virginia guy and Charlottesville guy,” said Corrigan, former athletic director at UVa and Notre Dame, and former commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. “I feel bad for those people that don’t know him.”
Palumbo was even more successful in the business world than he was on the football field, using that same drive in both worlds. No matter what Palumbo pursued, he always wanted to be the best, was always competitive. But he always took others along for the ride.
At UVa, the Cavaliers won 23 games and lost only five during his three varsity campaigns from 1949 to 1951.
In business, he was a giant.
Referring back to that salute in 2010, there were several tables filled with young people that worked in Joe’s company. They adored him as did most anyone who came into contact with the Beaver, Pa., native.
“Joe taught all those young employees the same thing he learned in football,” Corrigan said. “If you’re going to play, play hard.”
While there was a strong competitive side to Joe Palumbo, there was also a softer side. He had the strength of a bull but the heart of a teddy bear.
“Somebody mentioned that if you call Joe and want something, he will ask you when you want it,” Corrigan said. “He doesn’t say, I’ll see you tomorrow. He says, when do you need it.”
A uniquely wonderful UVa guy and Charlottesville guy. Those are enormous words because there’s few in that clubhouse. Palumbo always supported Cavalier football and the other sports. Of course, football was close to his heart because he was one of only six men to ever have their number retired.
Joe spoke only briefly that night and being the modest guy he was, made a point to mention that he didn’t deserve all the praise coming his way.
He also said that he hoped Virginia’s athletic teams would rise to the top and believed that President Teresa Sullivan would help that happen. He also expressed hope that Cavalier fans would get behind Mike London and support his effort to rebuild the program, knowing it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Former James Madison University president Ron Carrier spoke during Palumbo’s dinner that evening. The two had known one another for more than 20 years.
“Joe is a big, strong man,” Carrier said. “With an even bigger heart.”
Palumbo excelled at every endeavor from football, to coaching, business and public service, not to mention raising a family. He and wife, Sandy, were married for 53 years we think.
“Perseverance, dependability, consistency … those three things made Joe a great football player, a great father, a great leader, a great husband, a great businessman,” Carrier said.
Palumbo was an expert businessman with a personal approach and supported many causes in the Charlottesville community.
Still, he wasn't exactly the soundest person when it came to advanced technology.
“The most advanced technology Joe used was the telephone,” Carrier said, poking fun of his long-time friend. “The coffee pot is a strange instrument that is only useful if someone else makes coffee.”
Perhaps technology was Big Joe’s only weakness, but it didn’t matter. It was his heart that made him great on the gridiron, in the boardroom and in his household.
Wahoo Nation mourns its loss of a true All-American, not just a great football player, but a great man.