CANFIELD, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Jim began his extraordinary life on February 20, 1937. He was a proud product of the “Smokey Hollow” downtown Youngstown where he grew up and lived until he got married to the love of his life, the former Lucille Glaros. 

During his time in Smokey Hollow, Jim took part in nothing but sport activities since he was old enough to meander over to the old “Harrison Field”. There were so many facets to Jim’s bountiful life, however, none more important than the love he had for his family.

Jim was a 1954 graduate of The Rayen High School. There he was a standout football player at center on offense and linebacker on defense which earned him Vindicator All City Choice and Ohio All Star Team awards. Jim continued playing for his home town college Youngstown University under the legendary coach Dike Beede. A two way player, Jim started at center and linebacker for four years. Quite simply he was a standout player. Professionally, because he loved football, Jim made it his career.

After his playing career at Youngstown University Jim began his coaching career at Poland and Rayen High Schools. There he was an assistant football coach and teacher. In 1964 he became the first former athlete hired to the faculty and a full-time member of the coaching staff at Youngstown University. He coached with his mentor, Dike Beede. He was their defensive coordinator for 11 years.

In 1975, in a most courageous fashion, Jim uprooted his family and moved them from his beloved Youngstown to Charlotte, North Carolina to coach for the startup World Football League’s Charlotte Hornets. After two seasons there, the family moved again in 1977 to Carbondale, Illinois. There Jim coached at Southern Illinois University. The very next year they moved again to Kenner, Louisianna. There Jim was an assistant coach at Tulane University. After two successful seasons there, Jim broke into the NFL ranks and began his 22 year NFL coaching career as a special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach for the Los Angeles Rams. After two years in California the family then moved again to Kansas City, Missouri, where Jim coached for the Kansas City Chiefs as a special teams coordinator and linebacker coach. From there he continued on to New York to coach for the Jets as a linebacker coach. After four years with the Jets he went on to coach for the Cleveland Browns in 1990. From there Jim went on to the Philadelphia Eagles where he was a linebacker coach for what is considered one of the best NFL defenses of all time. After four years in Philadelphia Jim went back to coach for the New York Jets where he was the defensive coordinator for two years. Jim’s final move in the NFL was to the San Diego Chargers where he coached the legendary Junior Seau.

Jim ended his NFL career in 2001 and returned home to Youngstown, Ohio to enjoy a well deserved and long retirement. Jim’s extraordinary football life afforded him and his family the opportunity to literally see and be exposed to the whole country. In fact it took them all over the globe as he coached in games in London, England, Sidney, Australia and Tokyo, Japan but more importantly, Jim was able to befriend and coach with truly great individuals too many to count and certainly too many to list here. The family would like to thank all of them for their friendship over the years.  

Although football was the focus of his professional career, Jim’s true love was his wife of 62 years and family. Jim and Lucille happily raised three children. He loved watching them grow and have families of their own. Jim is survived by his wife Lucille; his sons, Jim (Lynn) Vechiarella and Bill (Sheila) Vechiarella; his daughter, Lisa (Dr. Jon) Saadey and his precious grandchildren, James (Melanie) Vechiarella, Nicholas (Laura) Vechiarella, Alyssa Vechiarella, Dominic Vechiarella, Anthony Vechiarella, Shannon (Dr. Tom) Adolf and LTJG Jon Saadey. He also proudly leaves five great-grandchildren, Victoria, James, Sophia, Matthew and Thomas. He is also survived by his sister, Joann Colla.

Preceding James in death were his father, James Vechiarella and his mother, Nancy Packard; a sister, Delores (Pat) Vicarel; brother-in-law, Alfred Colla and nephew, Fred Reali. 

Jim’s family would like to express their gratitude to all the caregivers that took such wonderful care of Jim during his transition to the next life. Their unrelenting selflessness during the difficult times was truly inspiring. 

There will be a Mass of Christian Burial on Thursday, September 28, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, 300 N. Broad Street, Canfield, OH 44406. 

Family and friends may pay their respects on Wednesday, September 27, 2023 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Higgins-Reardon Funeral Home, Boardman-Canfield Chapel, 3701 Starr’s Centre Drive, Canfield, OH 44406.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James A. Vechiarella, please visit our flower store.

A television tribute will air Tuesday, September 26 at the following approximate times: 6:47 a.m. on WYTV, 9:43 a.m. on WKBN, 10:58 a.m. on FOX and 8:12 p.m. on MyYTV. Video will be posted here the day of airing.