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Vesnesky ‘bled red and white’

Saint Francis Athletics Hall of Fame commentary

Mirror file photo Joe Vesnesky called Saint Francis sports on the radio for 36 years, retiring in 2015.

When he was informed a few months ago, in his home, by radio colleague Bernie Jubeck that he’d be enshrined in the Saint Francis Athletics Hall of Fame, Joe Vesnesky’s reaction was immediate.

“I started bawling,” he said.

Vesnesky was under the impression Saint Francis wanted to tape an interview for its website. Instead, Jubeck asked that Vesnesky’s wife, Karen, join them and told him the good news.

“I’m honored and surprised,” Vesnesky said. “You think of the athletes and teams I came in contact with … and then there’s Joe Vesnesky. Yes, very honored and very pleased.”

The 86-year-old Vesnesky, a DuBois native who taught history for more than 40 years and also coached the boys basketball team to its greatest heights, broadcasted Saint Francis sports for 36 years, retiring in 2015.

Often, he’d get off the bus at 2 a.m. on a Sunday and proceed a few hours later to DuBois, where he did a weekly polka show.

“Joe Vesnesky was — and still is — Saint Francis sports’ No. 1 fan,” Pat Farabaugh, former SFU sports information director and current member of the Athletics Hall of Fame committee, said. “You heard it in the excitement in his voice on broadcasts … and you saw it in the joy in his eyes after a big win.

“Besides waving Saint Francis’ banner over the airwaves for three and a half decades, he promoted the school wherever he went. It is wonderful to see him earn his deserving spot in our Athletics Hall of Fame.”

Former players who caught up with the Red Flash on the road would come over to press row to greet Venesky.

“Joe Schoen, Charlie Kates, Steve Rogers … they all still keep in touch,” Vesnesky said.

He called men’s basketball games through seven head coaches, dating back to Dave Magarity. He called the Northeast Conference championship game in 1992 against Fairleigh Dickinson and the NCAA play-in game win over Fordham three days later, the most magical week the DeGol Arena has ever seen.

He also mentioned the dozen trips to the NCAA Tournament made by the women’s program, a great success run started by Jenny Przekwas.

“All the memories,” he said. “Every game I did was a memory.”

Vesnesky said he owed a debt of gratitude to radio relationships with the likes of Cary Simpson, Neil Hart and Ed Sherlock, Dave Shannon and Ben Finger.

He talked about “leaving the little wooden press box,” without heat, at the football field and moving into the new one at DeGol Field.

He noted his partners — Shannon, Sherlock and Jubeck — along with SIDs like Farabaugh and Kevin Southard, who were also traveling color men and roommates.

He worked nearly 20 years with Jubeck, his longest standing sidekick.

“Joe bled red and white for over 30 years,” Jubeck said. “It’s just so nice to see this happen. He was the consummate professional, always prepared. He would tell me ‘you can’t have too much information.’ He taught me so much, and he was so much fun.”

As the years went on, the technology changed, and crews traveled less, relying more on the home team to provide an internet feed.

“They heard me in London, England,” Vesnesky said.

Some health issues have slowed him down, but Vesnesky will be on hand for today’s ceremony with bells on. Almost his entire family, which includes six children and 15 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, will join him.

“Saint Francis was a great part of my life,” Vesnesky said. “They treated me like I was Joe Buck.”

Rudel can be reached at 814-946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

Class 0f 2022

Set for induction this afternoon into the Saint Francis Athletics Hall of Fame include:

Megan (Taliaferro) Albidrez (women’s volleyball, 1996-99)

Marc Honore (men’s volleyball, 2004-07)

Scott Lewis (football, 2007-11)

Melissa Mackel (track and field, 2000-04)

Gary Pirozzola (wrestling, 1969-73, Altoona native)

Ryan Sheehan (track and field, 2001-05)

Eric Taylor (men’s basketball, 1994-98)

Stacy Trice (softball, 1995-98)

Joe Vesnesky (contributor)

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