A Way With Words

John Giuliotti had the assemblage at the St. Lazarus Church in East Boston in his hands and in his heart. Giuliotti’s eulogy at the funeral Mass for his father, Boston Herald sportswriter Joe Giuliotti – who died on Jan. 12, 2024 at the age of 89 – presented so many interesting and entertaining stories that it would be difficult to choose a best one.

The stories covered thoroughly the amazing newspaper career of Joe Giuliotti, but they also gave authentic, personal remembrances of Joe Giuliotti, the husband to his beloved wife of Irish heritage, Annie,  the father to his three sons, John, Eddie, and JP,  the grandfather to his three grandsons, Jack, Charlie, and Sam, to Joe Giuliotti, the coach, and Joe Giuliotti, the East Boston guy who loved his neighborhood.

Joe Giuliotti, who served as a coach for the East Boston and Shawsheen Tech hockey teams, delivers his acceptance speech after being inducted into the Massachusetts State Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018.
Joe Giuliotti (right), assistant coach of the East Boston High School hockey team, is pictured with team captains Mark Buttiglieri, Joel Celona, Jared Redfern, and George Farrell following a tournament at Porrazzo Rink in East Boston.

“I want to thank my two brothers, Eddie and JP – (who like John, were proud graduates of Dom Savio High School in East Boston) for allowing me the honor to give today’s eulogy,” began John.

And one realized from John Giuliotti’s remarks how cool among the brothers’ friends it was to be Joe Giuliotti’s son. There was the humorous anecdote about John Giuliotti getting a phone call at the family home while his father, Joe, was already talking on the line to future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who became known as “Mr. October” for his clutch performances in the post-season. Mr. Giuliotti, as nice as he could be under the circumstances and pressure of an impending deadline for the story, cordially told his son’s friend to call him back later. “The phone was off limits – we all remember call waiting, right?” remembered John.

John Giuliotti and his brothers came to understand their father’s position of sports writing fame and royalty among Boston fans, who so enjoyed his daily coverage of the Red Sox.

John gave his dad the ultimate tribute when he asked and then answered, “What qualifies a person to be a legend?

“A legend is someone who leaves behind an unforgettable impression on others They touch lives, they’re remembered, they’re cherished. There are all sorts of legends in this world – famous or not. Becoming one means finding your particular role, your calling, following it, and touching others around you.

“I think this summarizes my dad, and as everyone knows, he lived an amazing life doing things that only some can dream of, but he never viewed himself as that celebrity,” said John.

An East Boston Guy

Joe Giuliotti was remembered fondly as a favorite son of East Boston, an Eastie guy who loved the neighborhood restaurants, its taverns, and its people.

“He never put his family second, and he never forgot where he came from,” said John thoughtfully.  “He grew up not far from here. He went to school right next door. He hung around with friends that he was loyal to his whole life. When leaving the funeral home, we drove past most of the places that were important to him. The short drive took us past Donna’s Restaurant where we used to go for breakfast. I remember one of the cooks would jump right up and go over to him when he walked through the door and would say, “Hello, Coach.”

A Hall of Fame-Caliber Coach

“Although he was an accomplished writer, coaching was his true calling.  He was meant to be a coach and this was pretty clear during his time first, as a youth football coach and later as a high school hockey coach. John noted that his father introduced the concept of season-ending awards banquet at the Prince Restaurant in Saugus. “At the banquet, he had a trophy and a story for every kid. Now as an adult, I see why he did this.  The trophy is just a symbol while my dad’s message was the true gift.  Those words helped make a difference in some of those kids lives and even today, my brothers and I get approached by some of those former players who would say ‘ I remember when you dad said…”

John noted that his influence helped Joe begin his coaching career.  “Football started for my dad when I was six years old, I signed up for the tag rush league and my team was the Cowboys. At our first game at East Boston Stadium, our coach never showed up. My father headed down to the sideline and coached that game and then stayed as coach with me and my brothers for so many years which by the way he was East Boston’s first Pop Warner coach .”

John noted that while he loved all sports, hockey was his favorite and a gift that he got him one Christmas helped change not only his life, but the lives of many young players. “A little later in life, my dad started to exercise and he would go public skating at the Porrazzo Rink.  He used to rent skates so I decided to by him a pair of skates for Christmas and those skates carried him on an amazing ride. I decided to start coaching a Midget Youth Hockey team and I brought my dad along as an assistant.  Most of the players played at East Boston High School and they quickly recruited him to be their coach”  During these last few days, we have heard many stories and have seen many photo’s of my dad with famous people but his most cherished experiences were with this group of East Boston kids. He loved them like they were his own. One of his former players sent me this text which speaks to what he meant to him ‘ Your father meant so much to so many of us…he taught us the game, but even more about life.  He gave us the tools to become good men when many of us didn’t always have that great influence in our lives.  Your family gave so much more to East Boston than just making hockey players.  I know I speak for everyone when I tell you that I loved your dad and he will always hold a special place in my heart.’

 And Joe Giulotti would become revered as both a youth football coach and high school hockey coach. He went the extra mile to ensure that every player was maximizing his experience in the program but more importantly, helped those kids grow into young men – helping to make a difference in their lives.

In 2018, Joe Giuliotti’s excellence and dedication as a hockey coach (both at East Boston High School an Shawsheen Tech High School)was recognized with his induction into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame.

‘He was my best friend’

John Giuliotti’s final words of farewell to his father were touching.

“Our relationship grew more from a father-son to a friend,” said John. “He was my best friend, and when he passed away, I felt like a part of me died, and I’m going to miss him.

“God, once he has settled in, please give him a front seat in the Heaven Press Box, where he can look down and watch his family and friends continue to live their lives while spreading his message. Lastly, God, I also want to thank you for allowing me to be so close to him over the last couple of years. It was truly a gift. I want to thank you for allowing me to be there holding his hand as he took his last breath – he didn’t leave this world alone.

“When I would talk to him on the phone and when our conversations were over, I would also say something like, “Okay, Coach, we’ll talk to you soon.’ So I’ll say it now for the final time, “Okay, Coach, I’ll talk with you soon…Love you, Dad!”

In baseball parlance, in the language of sports writing that his father had perfected – John Giuliotti hit a home run, encapsulating the life of a legend in his remembrances of his father.

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