POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – On Thursday night, a moving memorial tribute of vehicles will be held in Poland Township for a man who was part of the community his entire life.
Joe Bonarigo, 50, died Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19.
“Joe and I met when we were 13 in junior high.”
No one tells the story of Joe Bonarigo better than his wife, Tina.
“I was telling my kids, in 35 years, this is the first time I haven’t talked to dad every day,” she said.
A 1988 graduate of Poland High, Joe was a star athlete — a four-year starter in baseball and an all-conference linebacker in football. Reid Lamport was his football coach.
“When we first took over, Poland had had a number of down years,” he said. “Joe was one of those guys that helped us build the program.”
Joe and Tina married and had two kids. She teaches first grade. He started a painting company.
“He chose that so that he could be at all our kids’ events growing up,” Tina said.
Then two weeks ago, Joe developed a dry cough and fever that got worse. Last Wednesday, Tina was told to take him to St. Elizabeth in Boardman.
“They started wheeling him away, and I just said, ‘We love you’ and ‘I’ll talk to you soon.’ And I truly believed that we would.”
By Thursday, Joe was on a ventilator and in a medically-induced coma with no visitors.
“We were getting information about every eight hours and every eight hours I had to wait was like a year,” Tina said.
By Saturday night, Joe’s fever was up, his kidneys were in distress and his heart was weak.
“Then they called us back and they held the phone to his ear so we could each tell him what we needed to tell him, and then they called me back and said he had passed.”
“They lost a great one with Joe,” Rocky Nittoli said.
Rocky was a friend of Joe’s since grade school.
“Even back in the day when we played sports in high school, the guys on the other teams knew him and respected just because of the way he carried himself,” Rocky said.
Joe was a hardworking, humble, all-around good guy, which his wife wrapped up in one simple anecdote:
“There were a couple of ladies who were widows that I knew when he would go over to work at their house. He’d be gone a little longer because they’d want to have a coffee and no matter how tired he was after working, he would always sit down and spend that time with them.”
So many people are expected for Thursday night’s drive-by memorial past the Bonarigos’ home on Four Seasons Trail, it’s being divided alphabetically by last name:
- A to G: 5 to 6 p.m.
- H to P: 6 to 7 p.m.
- Q to Z: 7 to 8 p.m.
The family will be on the porch. Tina said the funny thing about it was Joe was so humble, he would have thought this was way over-the-top.