We lost Joey Giardello today, but his life will live on in my words. Here's an Open Letter to his lovely, devoted wife who had more to do with Joey's success in life than all his boxing skills.
OPEN LETTER TO ROSALIE TILELLI
September 4, 2008
What can I say after I say that I’m so very sorry to hear of Joey’s passing?
Plenty for I know a great deal more about the man than most as I have spent the past year researching and “re-living” his entire life.
He was not only as reported by the boxing historian, Mike Casey and others, a great boxer, but what those historians didn’t know was that boxing was only a portion of his life. A smaller than would be expected part of his life. There was a lot more to Joey Giardello than boxing.
He was truly a great man.
I take pride in saying that I never met Joey Giardello. In 1982 I met Carmine Tilelli and was told that he was a famous boxer -- a world champion. And while he related some insider boxing stories he talked mostly about his family and the remarkable deeds of his number two son, Carman.
I learned that Carman, while born with Down syndrome had accomplished more in his life than most “normal” people. He met more celebrities; maintained a full time job; and imitated Elvis, Jimmy Durante and Ed Sullivan better than most impersonators. Carman won gold at the Special Olympic for a 300 yard race. He won a weight lifting contest. Carman as a Boy Scout went to Theodore Roosevelt Camp. He received a trophy for never missing a Little League Baseball game.
Now there was a proud papa.
Carman also met more celebrities than seen on a red carpet night in Hollywood. Famous folks: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Durante, and Frankie Avalon; in politics, Richard Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver; in sports, Tommy LaSorda, Mark Gastineau, plus too many Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles to name; boxers, Rocky Graziano, Willie Pep, Chico Vejar, Jake LaMota, Carmen Basilio, and too many more to list here.
Joey became involved and raised more money for charitable organizations that helped children with special needs than he probably earned for himself after leaving the ring. He held boxing exhibitions in 1969 and 1972 with many of the aforementioned boxers who squared off for charity. Many fans would attend these events just to see the referees, Jersey Joe Walcott, Jack Dempsey and James Braddock.
He met with Sargent and Eunice Shriver and volunteered his time to help launch the Special Olympics in 1968.
Joey was never more proud than when Carman retired from his job after 28 years at Cherry Hill Township, The Township named a building in his honor – The Carman Tilelli Community Center.
Joey was so much more than a boxer. He was a true humanitarian, a fund raiser for special needs children, a loving father and a husband,
And yes, middleweight champion 1963-1965.