Joseph Patrick Sassano Jr. passed away in his home peacefully surrounded by family Sept.19. Sassano worked at the Joyce Center, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., in administration and management from its opening in 1968 until his retirement in 2003. He helped coordinate a long list of events, ranging from presidential visits to performances by entertainers such as Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Harlem Globetrotters and many more.
Sassano was an active member of the International Association of Venue Managers when it was IAAM and as one fellow member put it, one of the old guard. He managed venues when it was a different kind of career and GMs served as hosts and guides. His career was shaped by years as a high school football coach.
He is survived by his wife Carol and four children: Joseph III (Maureen), David (Carolyn), Jennifer (Stephen) D'Ambrosia, and Jessica (Dennis) Payne. He has eight grandchildren; Corinne (Heather Hahn; their two foster daughters) and Colby Sassano; Christian and Isabelle Sassano; Allison D'Ambrosia; Nathan (Dr. Cynthia), Alex, and Seth Payne.
Sassano was involved in numerous community organizations over his 49 years as a resident of South Bend, including the Chamber of Commerce, Press Club, Notre Dame Club of St. Joe Valley where he served as president, and the Italian-American Heritage Society of Notre Dame/Michiana, where he was awarded their Columbus Award for service to community along with serving as that organization’s president.
Sassano was also instrumental in the development of Notre Dame's summer sports camps back in the early 1970s. He attended Notre Dame, earning a bachelor's degree in 1955 and a master's in guidance and counseling in 1959.
He served three years in the United States Marine Corps, where he coached the Quantico football team. His passion for coaching led him to Chicago in 1959, where he spent nine years as head football coach at Archbishop Weber High School
In 1972, Sassano was inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Athletic Coaches' Association Hall of Fame.
“I knew Joe for over 40 years,” said Tom Powell, news ambassador, Outdoor Amusement Business Association. “Being a big Notre Dame fan, Joe arranged it so that I could sit in the press box there, which was great.”
Sassano was a good host to industry friends. “He did a million favors for me,” said Powell. “He’d get me tickets whenever I wanted; he used to hand me the clicker to get into the parking lot.”
“At Joyce Center he was the equivalent of the building manager,” he said. “When we’d go up there, he’d go out of his way for us.”
“He invited my wife and myself into his home many times,” he said. “We’d have a great meal and we’d spend the rest of the night talking sports.”
“Joe was more than just a friend,” said Powell. “He was a great person.”