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Joe Marcino, started Wantagh High School football program, coached Freeport, dies at 91

Joe Marcino, 91, who started the Wantagh High

Joe Marcino, 91, who started the Wantagh High School football program and was its first varsity coach in 1954.

Long after their athletic careers were over, many of Joe Marcino's former football players from several Long Island high schools fondly called him "Coach."

Marcino, who started the Wantagh High School football program and was its first varsity coach in 1954 and also coached for more than a decade at Freeport High School, died on Monday at Glens Falls Hospital following a brief illness. He was 91.

"There are men in their 60s who still called him 'Coach,' " said his daughter, Maria Marcino of Massapequa. "He touched many lives in the athletic community and created bonds that lasted a lifetime."

Marcino coached at Wantagh from 1954 to 1963, compiling a record of 50-26-2, according to Newsday statistics. Five of his teams lost just once in a season.

After leaving Wantagh, Marcino coached for 13 years at Freeport High School, where two of his teams were undefeated. In 1969, the Red Devils were 7-0-1 and in 1972 they were 7-0-2. Both of those teams won league championships. The '72 squad tied Bethpage, 6-6, in the county title game and was declared Nassau County co-champion. Marcino's overall record at Freeport was 46-58-5.

Marcino was born May 25, 1923, in upstate Whitehall, and graduated from Whitehall High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in World War II, achieving the rank of sergeant. According to Maria Marcino, her father served in Iwo Jima in 1945 and was awarded the Bronze Star for devotion and courage under enemy fire.

After the war, Marcino attended SUNY at Cortland, receiving a master's degree in education. His first teaching and coaching job was at Lindenhurst High School before he went to Wantagh. After retiring as teacher and coach at Freeport, he was an assistant football coach at Clarke High School, C.W. Post (now LIU-Post) and St. John's University.

"He was a humble man who did his best for his family and all that knew him," Maria Marcino said. "He always had words of wisdom or encouragement. Some of his favorite expressions were 'stay focused' and 'keepa going.' His memory will be embedded in their hearts forever."

Marcino moved back to his hometown of Whitehall in 1990, bought a parcel of land, and according to Maria, "fulfilled his dream of building a cabin on the hill with the help of his three sons. He spent his days tending to his apple trees and garden, and always enjoyed visiting with family and reminiscing with longtime friends."

In addition to Maria, Marcino is survived by another daughter, Vicki Marcino of Massapequa; three sons -- Michael of Newton, New Jersey, Brian of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and Joseph of upstate Middle Granville; and a sister, Anne Soothcage of Glens Falls. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A graveside service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Whitehall. The family suggests that contributions be made in his memory to the Whitehall American Legion Post No. 83, 148 Main St., Whitehall, NY 12887.

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