Joseph Napolitano, former writer for Gazette Chicago, dies at age 66
December 6, 2019

Joseph “Joey Nap” Napolitano, an original Gazette Chicago staff writer.

Joseph “Joey Nap” Napolitano, former Gazette Chicago staff writer, passed away on Aug. 26. He was 66 years old.

Mr. Napolitano grew up in the Little Italy community and later resided in Oak Park.  He was a resident of Hegewisch community of Chicago at the time of his death.

For many years, Mr. Napolitano worked in the billing office at Rush University Medical Center. He was an accomplished athlete and excelled in sports such as basketball and softball. He also played an instrumental role when Gazette Chicago launched under its original name of Near West Gazette.

A Mass of the Resurrection was said for Mr. Napolitano at Notre Dame de Chicago Church on Nov. 16. More than 125 friends attended the service, which was presided over by the Rev. Peter B. McQuinn, pastor of Holy Family-Notre Dame de Chicago Parish.

Mark Valentino, editor and publisher of Gazette Chicago, offered Mr. Napolitano’s eulogy.

“Some of you might recall that circa 1981-1982, Joey and I started a newsletter entitled Sheridan Park News,” said Valentino. “It was a one page, mimeographed sheet and Joey wrote a weekly column called ‘S’News with Nap.’ It was a play on words of ‘Sports News with Nap.’ That was just an example of his sense of humor.

“He would comment on the achievements of some of the legendary athletes from Sheridan Park and would voice his opinions on lots of other things. I used to enjoy our meetings to discuss what would be in next week’s column.

“Sheridan Park News was the precursor to the Near West Gazette newspaper. We launched the Gazette in May of 1983 and Joey was a part of that as well, writing sports columns for the paper for several years,” Valentino noted. 

“Even more important, Joey and I had a lot of conversations on what the Gazette needed to be for the local community. It was his mixture of being a person rooted in faith and a visionary philosopher that helped me a great deal in those early years.

“I remain deeply grateful for all that Joey did to help get us started 36 years ago,” Valentino said.

Mr. Napolitano was preceded in death by his brother, James “Jimmy”; his mother, Edith (nee Iacono); and his father, James. Internment is at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, IL.


Eulogy:

A Celebration of the Life of Joseph “Joey Nap” Napolitano

January 18, 1953—August 26, 2019

Notre Dame de Chicago Church,1334 W. Flournoy Street,Chicago, IL 60607

Good morning. My name is Mark Valentino, and it is my honor to say a few words on your behalf about our friend, Joseph “Joey Nap” Napolitano.

We come together as a community of faith to celebrate Joey’s life; to ask God to grant him the joy and peace of eternal salvation; and to ask Jesus to guide our paths in the days, months, and years ahead so that someday, we can be joined with Joey once again in the Communion of Saints.

Have you ever seen the sign that says: “What would Jesus do?’

You could find it sometimes amidst a sea of protestors calling for social justice. You might see it on a bumper sticker on a car in front of you. Or, on a button on someone’s coat.

“What would Jesus do?”

I think Jesus would have done what each and every one of you has done in recent weeks for Joey.

When word spread that Joey had passed throughout the “Old Neighborhood” here in Little Italy and among Joey’s other friends, you acted as loving, Christian people to make this celebration of Joey’s life possible.

You poured out your hearts in prayer for the repose of Joey’s soul. You called and consoled one another and shared some of your favorite memories of Joey—and there are many legendary memories. You posted a remembrance on FaceBook. And, you flooded the Go Fund Me site we created or wrote a check to cover Joey’s funeral expenses so that he could give him a proper send-off.

You did exactly what Jesus would have wanted you to do.

You showed up. You stepped up. You didn’t forget Joey at the end of his earthly life.

You may be aware that throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago, parishes are merging and worship sites are closing. It’s a difficult time as the numbers of available priests are dwindling due to lack of vocations, retirements, and deaths.

Here in Little Italy, we are experiencing the Archdiocese’s Renew My Church process. It’s messy. It’s gnarly. It’s really complicated. And, I believe it’s something that Joey would have dived right in to.

As we reimagine church here in Little Italy, and merge our parish communities of Holy Family and Notre Dame, our pastor, Rev. Peter McQuinn, who is our presider this morning, challenges us to be “Vibrant and Vital Disciples of Jesus.”

What does that mean? In some ways we are still figuring it out, but in some ways it’s simpler than it sounds.

Look to your right. Look to your left. Look within yourself.

For all that you did for Joey throughout his life; for living out your faith each day; for all that you did for Joey to bring us to this celebration of his life this morning, you are a Vital and Vibrant Disciple of Jesus.

Joey served in that role, too. He was kind hearted; he was a person of faith. He often wore his heart on his sleeve. He showed up and he stepped up.

He even looked the part of a disciple of Jesus with his long hair, mustache, and the beard he sometimes wore. When he walked down Taylor Street in his long, green Army coat; with his locks flowing, he resembled the fishermen James and John. He had that way about him.

Joey was always up for a challenge. He was a deep thinker. I used to tell him that in a prior life he must have been a Greek philosopher.

That was one of the attributes that made Joey so endearing to us. He cared about his friends and he cared about people in general.

If he saw something that wasn’t right, he didn’t have a problem calling you out on it. To say that Joey was outspoken would be an understatement. But, he always had the best interests of others in what he was standing up for.

Joey was many things throughout his life. He also was a great athlete in his day.

Many of us were privileged to play various sports with Joey.

His prowess on the basketball court was well known. He was a master at the pick and roll and had a mean fade away jump shot. Joey and Mike “Cod” Caruso mastered the pick and roll.

There wasn’t a basketball game that Joey didn’t find his way in to. Whether we played basketball at Sheridan Park, behind the old McClaren School, or against rival teams in Bridgeport or Pilsen, Joey always was there.

Finding tall guys in this neighborhood to play hoops wasn’t easy. So everyone wanted Joey or Paul “Tall Paul” Gravante on his team. It was always fun to watch or be on the court when Joey Nap and Tall Paul were on opposite teams.

Joey was a great softball pitcher and he could field his position well whether on the mound, at first base, or in the outfield.

With a wingspan of a Pterodactyl, it was a challenge for a quarterback to get a pass off when Joey was the counter in touch football. Just ask some of our friends such as Anthony Amarino, Luke Capuano, or Louie Villapiano.

Whether you were playing sports, enjoying a bite to eat, going to a movie, chilling to some good music, or just hanging out on the corner with friends, the experience was always better when Joey was among us. He was the type of person who made the circle complete.

Of course, Joey liked to have fun. Who could ever forget the sight of Joey cruising the neighborhood in his orange Jeep, with the music blaring from his tape deck? I don’t think anyone here present this morning doesn’t recall what a tape deck is.

When he stopped to roll down the window to say hello, a waft of smoke would pour out. Joey was light years ahead of most in understanding some of the positive effects of cannabis. We’ll just leave it at that.

If you will allow me a moment, I would like to thank Joey for something he did for me and for our community, more than three decades ago.

Some of you might recall that circa 1981-1982, Joey and I started a newsletter entitled Sheridan Park News. It was a one page; mimeographed sheet and Joey wrote a weekly column called “S’News with Nap.” It was a play on words of “Sports News with Nap.” That was just an example of his sense of humor.

He would comment on the achievements of some of the legendary athletes from Sheridan Park and would voice his opinions on lots of other things. I used to enjoy our meetings to discuss what would be in next week’s column.

Sheridan Park News was the precursor to the Near West Gazette newspaper. We launched the Gazette in May of 1983 and Joey was a part of that as well, writing sports columns for the paper for several years.

Even more important, Joey and I had a lot of conversations on what the Gazette needed to be for the local community. It was his mixture of being a person rooted in faith and a visionary philosopher that helped me a great deal in those early years.

Today, Gazette Chicago is in its 37th year of publishing and I remain deeply grateful for all that Joey did to help get us started so many years ago.

In closing, I’d like to express gratitude once again to all of you.

I cannot thank everyone by name, and I apologize if I leave any of you out.

I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Richie Guerrero, who would visit Joey regularly and had the difficult task of being there when it was learned that Joey had died. Richie, Kathy Timothy, Mary Jo Gurgone, Val and Donnie Davis, Michael Coleman, and so many of you remained friends with Joey over the years. Thank you for doing what Jesus would do.

I want to thank James Messina for reaching out to me to share the news of Joey’s passing and jumpstarting this effort to provide him with the respect he deserved at the end of his life.

I want to thank Tony Acosta for giving us the idea to create the Go Fund Me site for Joey’s funeral expenses and to Jamie Manderino for providing us the wonderful photograph of Joey for church this morning and on our Mass Aid.

And to Joey’s cousin, Frank Iacono, for stepping up and helping us in a number of ways to work with various entities like Catholic Cemeteries to make Joey’s burial possible.

Thank you, Father Peter, for being our presider at this wonderful liturgy. And to our soloist, Tony Berardi, for your gift of music, thank you.

I know I am leaving so many of you out; and of course, I do not mean to do so. The important thing is that Joey knows who you are and God does, too.

At the close of this liturgy, we will meet at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.

We will meet at the main office at the cemetery and then proceed in procession to Joey’s final resting place, where he will be buried with his father, James, and his grandparents.

Afterwards, we will meet at Alpine Banquets on Roosevelt Road across the street from Queen of Heaven Cemetery for a luncheon and to share stories about our beloved friend, Joey Nap. Please join us.

 

Joey, thank you for being such a good friend and for the incredible love you gave to us.

Thank you for sharing and living your faith and being a vibrant and vital disciple of Jesus.

Thank you for your concern for others; for standing up when someone in need couldn’t speak for himself or herself.

We will never forget you. We will pray to you and for you and ask that you do the same for us.

Rest well, Joey. May there be a basketball court in Heaven where you could join in a game and swish that fade away jumper once again.

We can only imagine how joyful it must be…

… for you to dance with the Lord of the Dance…oh, so Heavenly.

God bless you Joseph “Joey Nap” Napolitano. And, God bless each of us, too.