Mary Star of the Sea High School’s long-retired, legendary football coach Joe Radisich, Sr., died Wednesday night, March 25, after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to his son. He was 84.
His son, longshoreman and former Los Angeles harbor Commissioner Joe Radisich, Jr., said his father became ill about a week ago and already was battling a number of other health problems.
He was admitted to Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital, in San Pedro, for what was believed to be pneumonia, his son said in a telephone interview Thursday morning, March 26.
Radisich, Sr., was given a test for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, which came back positive four or five days later, his son said.
“My wife and my young son talked to him yesterday at about 4 (p.m.)” and he died shortly after that, Radisich, Jr., said.
“We can’t even have a funeral for him,” he added. “We just want to give him his due.”
Radisich, Sr., who retired from Mary Star in 1983, is the first reported death from the virus in the South Bay and Harbor Area.
Public health officials had reported 13 deaths in Los Angeles County from the coronavirus as of Wednesday. There have been 799 confirmed cases, officials said.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease appear two-to-14 days after exposure and typically include fever, a cough and shortness of breath.
It can particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Radisich, Sr., coached Mary Star, a small Catholic high school in San Pedro, for 11 years, taking the football team to the CIF semifinals in 1977 and the quarterfinals in his last season.
In 2006, he was inducted into the San Pedro Sportswalk of Fame along with Major League Baseball manager Sparky Anderson and Louis Zamperini, a war hero and Olympian.
Multiple tributes to Radisich, Sr., had already been posted on Facebook by Thursday morning. One came from former Chicago Bears tight end Tim Wrightman, who Radisich, Sr., coached in the 1970s.
“Today, I lost my ‘coach,’ my mentor and a father figure during the most formative years of my life,” Wrightman wrote. “He didn’t just coach kids how to play football, but how to be men.”
Wrightman went on to recall how his coach led an “undermanned, undersized” Mary Star team.
“We often played and defeated schools 10 times our enrollment,” Wrightman wrote. “Most teams had more people in their band than we had players on the field. This is where coach Radisich taught us how to win against all odds.
“We learned what it meant to sacrifice,” he added, “to play with pain, to fight for your teammates, what success discipline will bring.”
Another former player, Domenic Costa, also memorialized him on Facebook.
“My high school football coach passed away today — Coach Rad Joe Radisich!” he wrote. “We really needed a coach like him to help teach us the life lessons of football at tiny Mary Star in the mid-1970s!
“What a teacher! What a coach!” he added, “His lessons will be like ripples in the big ocean and will carry-on forever through us! What a character with character!”
Radisich was also well-known in San Pedro for being one of the “original” surfers, often taking on the giant waves on his longboard off the cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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