Joseph Vuoso, 68, of Mount Sinai, a court security officer who stayed at his post for days in Foley Square following the Sept. 11 attacks, died last Wednesday of cancer.
In an interview two and a half months before his death, Vuoso described watching the first plane go into the Twin Towers blocks away from the federal courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan.
After escorting judges out of the federal building, Vuoso said he stayed, guarding it for five days. Covered in debris and ash, he said he would take his clothes off, "shake them and put them back on."
He was diagnosed with leukemia a year later. In April of this year, he was told his cancer had become an aggressive form of lymphoma.
Born in Brooklyn and a graduate of Boys High School in Brooklyn, Vuoso met his future wife, Evelyn, when she was 12 and he was 15. "I hit him in the face with a snowball," she said.
The couple wed six years later and were married for 47 years. In 1969, when their first daughter, Stacy, was three months old, they moved to Long Island.
In 1967, Vuoso became a city transit police officer in Brooklyn, a job he held until he retired 15 years later. For several years after, he helped his mother in her produce store in Brooklyn, his wife said. Then he took the job as a court security officer at Foley Square, retiring in 2002 after 11 years because of his illness.
His wife said Vuoso loved sports and coached his younger daughter Debra's CYO basketball and softball teams in Syosset for six years. After she no longer played, Vuoso became a referee for BOCES and CYO varsity teams throughout Long Island, a role he had to give up after his cancer diagnosis.
Despite his cancer, Vuoso was an avid follower of his grandson's Three Village Patriots' baseball team in Stony Brook, earning an award recently from the team as "number one fan," his wife said. "They called him their 'motivational coach,' " she said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Stacy of Stony Brook and Debra of upstate Baldwinsville; his brother Jerry of Staten Island; his sister Mary of Saddle Brook, N.J.; and four grandchildren.
Vuoso has been cremated. Visitation is 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Tuesday at St. James Funeral Home, 829 Middle Country Rd., St. James. A priest will be in attendance during the early visiting hours. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.