Joe Belluzzo – Well Done

I wish I had been related to Joe Belluzzo. Then maybe I would have been a little more like him.
By now you know that Joe died on Nov. 11.
You know he was Sonoma County’s “Godfather of Soccer.”
You know he came here a few decades ago from Italy by way of San Francisco.
You know  he came with a soccer ball in hand and a passion for the game that is assuredly with him somewhere today.
You know he refused to let his soccer dream die in Sonoma County.
It didn’t.
It won’t.
Maybe you knew of his Shoe Bank. Countless kids stayed on the field and off the streets because of Joe’s generosity. His garage was Soccer & Sports way before that store was launched. Big difference, his shoes were free to anyone who needed a pair. Just leave your old ones.
Maybe you know he founded the club Juventus way back when.
Maybe you know that club was a way to keep the soccer dream alive for older players.
Maybe you know he was a machinist in that building off Todd Road next to the field that was named for him.
Maybe you know that he worked a deal with the owner of the company in that building off Todd Road to rent that field to Santa Rosa United for $1 a year. You didn’t often say no to Joe when it came to soccer and kids.
And here’s what you probably don’t know about Joe.
He was a prisoner of war – he was in the Italian army and he was a prisoner of the U.S.
He was a garbage man in the City. Toted cans up lots of flights of steps.
He became an excellent machinist simply by watching other workers do it.
He met his wife – Doris – at the Italian-American club in Oakland.
Here, I’ll let her tell you how that happened:
“A friend of mine said we have to go to the library to do some homework. But I said. ‘You go to the library I’m going in here.’ So, then I went into the Italian-American Social Club. I knew several of the fellas and I started talking to them and then the music started. Well, I was over here and he (Joe) was way over there. There were all these girls in between us.
“In the meantime my girlfriend had come back over and I said to her: ‘He is going to ask me to dance.’ And she said, ‘Sure’…
“But sure enough he came all the way around from the opposite side of the hall and asked me to dance.
The song was ‘You Belong To My Heart.'”

I was sitting at the Belluzzo’s kitchen table, working on a book I have yet to finish on his life, when Doris told me that story. Afterward, Joe, with his always wry sense of humor, added:
“I told her: ‘You belong to my heart.’ It was smooth.”

And then he said (it was 2006 at the time):
“We have been married 59 years and we’ve only had one fight …and it lasted 59 years!”

I don’t know if the tradition in Italy following a soccer game is to say, “Well done” or not.
But to Joe Belluzzo I say, “Well done.”
I do know in Italy, as they do everywhere, when players come off the field they applaud the fans.
Joe Belluzzo. I applaud you.
I’ll miss you.