Joe "Bags" Casablanca Jr. (Photo courtesy of Dave Choate (sportspainter.com)
Sad news out of Shelton today.
Joe Casablanca Jr. coaches during a Shelton football practice several seasons ago - Photo courtesy Dave Choate http://sportspainter.com)
Joseph “Bags” Casablanca Jr. died of cancer Wednesday morning. He was 38.
Casablanca was a Shelton native and St. Joseph graduate who spent time as an assistant football coach at his alma mater under Joe Della Vecchia before moving to coach under Jeff Roy at Shelton.
He was the owner of the Donut Center, at 522 Shelton Ave. in Huntington village, and would get up early in the morning to run his business. Naturally, that earned him his nickname, ‘Bags’ — as in Joey Bags of Donuts.
“He was a great guy, everybody who knew him loved him,” Roy said Wednesday. “He was everybody’s best friend. It’s really tough.”
A year and a half ago, Casablanca was diagnosed with kidney cancer and was even close to death after having one removed. He recovered somewhat, but the disease left Casablanca severely weakened.
It did nothing to curtail his jovial spirit or his love of high school sports.
Despite concerns from his doctors, Casablanca would find a way back out onto the practice field as a spectator. He would sit beneath the low branches toward the south end of the bleachers at Shelton’s Finn Stadium and watch the Gaels practice or play games.
“If I feel good enough, I come out here,” Coach Bags told me early last season at a scrimmage with Staples and Seymour. “My doctors want me to stay at home, but I can’t stay away. I love it too much.
“It’s therapeutic for me.”
The cancer eventually returned and spread to his lungs. After several rounds of advanced and experimental treatment, Roy said, doctors told Casablanca there was nothing else they could do. He spent the last few months with his family and friends, watching the NCAA tournament games and talking sports — especially his beloved Yankees.
“He came to terms with it,” Roy said. “He was the same ol’ Bags right up until yesterday.”
After learning the news, Roy said he spent Wednesday afternoon remembering Casablanca with his players and fellow coaches.
“He loved coaching, he loved being with the kids,” Roy said. “The kids took it pretty hard, especially the seniors who he’d coached in JV games and all that. We’re all going to miss him.”
The wake will be held Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Road, Trumbull.
Funeral services will take place on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Road, Trumbull, and at 10 a.m. in St. Lawrence Church.
Read the official obituary.