Those who knew him never had just one story about Anthony “Tony” Grimaldi. But most of those stories were about football, like the fact that he had coffee and a Little Debbie crumb cake before every game.
Grimaldi was a football coach for the better part of 30 years, but he was also a father, a teacher of coaches and athletes, a bus driver and a co-owner of a restaurant with his son.
“He loved people,” said his son, Charles Grimaldi, 60, of West Babylon. “He really loved to teach and be involved and keep people from going bad.”
Grimaldi died Dec. 22 at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. He was 82.
“He was a good person,” Charles said. “He was funny.”
“His life was football,” Charles said, noting that his dad’s basement in Deer Park was filled with trophies and photos. “He loved football. He loved teaching the kids. He loved being around the kids.”
Born June 16, 1934, in Brooklyn, Grimaldi grew up in Franklin Square and graduated from Sewanhaka High School in 1953.
Charles Grimaldi said his parents met at age 12, and Tony and Josephine began to do everything together, even stickball games with Tony’s friends.
His first job was on a Pepsi-Cola route out of high school, Charles said. He would do “anything to put food on the table.” Grimaldi worked construction and he and Charles became business partners in several ventures, including a carpet-cleaning business, and Pepe’s, a restaurant on Sunrise Highway in Oakdale where Charles taught Tony how to cook.
But Grimaldi could usually be found on the football field.
He was a defensive coordinator at St. John the Baptist High School and won four Metro Bowls and Catholic High School football titles in the 1980s. He was a part of two Rutgers Cup winning coaching staffs at Harborfields High School in the 1990s and was the head football coach of St. John the Baptist from 2001 to 2006, in which he won Catholic High School Football League Class “A” championships in 2002 and 2003. He also served as a member of the Bay Shore staff from 2006 to 2008.
“He was a really good example of what to do as a head coach for sure,” said current St. John the Baptist coach Ralph Carusillo, who served as receivers and defensive backs coach under Grimaldi.
“He’s an extremely loyal person, cared about his family and friends,” Carusillo said. “He cared about the school, he cared about the game of football and really was just a great ambassador of the game.”
Sal Cataldo worked with Grimaldi as a junior varsity coach at St. John the Baptist. “He was always positive and the kids always rallied around him,” Cataldo said. “He wasn’t the type of coach you liked, he was the type you loved.”
Grimaldi is survived by his wife, Josephine; daughters Tricia Grimaldi of East Islip and Helen Grimaldi of Newport, Rhode Island; sons Charles Grimaldi, Anthony Grimaldi Jr. of Longmont, Colorado, and Michael Grimaldi of London. He had eight grandchildren.
Burial was at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.