Why, Why, Why?

I ask myself all the time when someone leaves us.

43 years of age, it’s just too young to die.

It’s mid-life for crissakes!

You still have half of your life to live.

One of the sweetest girls I knew growing up in Windsor Terrace left us last week.

She is gone but not forgotten.

I first met Joanne Mackay when we were 12 years old.

I used to play on Windsor Place between 9th and 10th avenue with the Cullen’s who lived right down the street from her.

We both had Mr. Civello as our sixth grade teacher at Holy Name; it was the first year the catholic school went co-ed.

Joanne was always laughing, always smiling.

Her cheeks would turn beat-red when she was laughing.

I’m not sure if I should reveal this but, what the heck.

I had a crush on her starting at the age of 12, all the way to 15.

We used to talk a little bit in school, or out in the schoolyard.I’d see her in the neighborhood and say hello.

I always got nervous when talking to her.I’d walk away thinking to myself, ‘damn it Steve, you blew it!’

In the 8th grade we went on our annual class trip to Great Adventure in New Jersey.

All four classes boarded charter buses and to my surprise, Joanne sat in the open seat next to me.

It turned out to be a great day. (Relax; we were always just friends after that)

I’d always see Joanne sitting on her stoop petting a dog.

If I was coming or going from the Cullen’s I’d always say hi.

Some nights I’d stop and chat with her for a bit.

One day while we were talking some guy pulled up in a car and she said she had to go as she jumped off the stoop and jogged over to the car.

I later found out it was her boyfriend.

I was crushed.

My friends and I used to hang out in Prospect Park and on the parkside at night.

For a few nights Joanne hung out with us because she went to O.L.P.H. with a couple of the girls that hung out with us.

It was great seeing her.

We’d walk home across Ninth Avenue together; she’d hang a left down Windsor and I’d cross the street to where I lived. But then she stopped showing up.

I didn’t see Joanne for years after that.

I always wondered how she was doing.

I never really told her how I felt about her.

So I’ll take this time now, and hopefully she is logging on up in heaven and reading Container Diaries.

“Joanne, you were one of the nicest people I ever met.Your smile was infectious and your laugh was heard all over the neighborhood.You touched a lot of people.You had so much vigor, so much enthusiasm.I wish you would’ve kept hanging out with us in the park as teenagers.Joanne, I miss you.”

A few days ago I blogged about 8th grade autograph books…Joanne signed mine and since the news of her death, I have opened it each day and have read her message to me.

The Mackay’s were a very nice family.I played basketball with Billy.

There was also John, James and Joanne’s twin brother Michael who passed away from cancer at an early age. Michael was the salt of the earth.I remember in the second grade I didn’t know the answer to a question on a test, Michael sat across from me and I looked over at his paper to copy off of him.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joanne’s family. We will always remember you.

Joanne Mackay, RIP.

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18 Responses to JOANNE MACKAY

  1. Karen (Artz) Shanley says:

    Fin – What wonderful words about Joanne. Thanks for saying what many of us are feeling and thinking. Rest in Peace Jo.

  2. Helen Cole Prestia says:

    Good job yet again. You must have put alot of thought into that.Then again she was worth it. She did have the best laugh. It brought tears to my eyes. I spent a good part of the day doing that. I went through tons of photo albums with pictures of Joanne & I, her family. I also came across a few pictures of my two brother’s communion. Not one of mine, guess that’s what happens when you are the last kid. I used to have a picture of Jimmy Cullen & I at the 8th grade dance in the Holy Name basement. I think his aunt took the picture. I have to see if I can dig that one up.

  3. hoopscoach says:

    Karen and Helen,

    Thank you so much. I keep asking myself if it’s true? I didn’t have any contact with her for years but I feel like I just talked to her last night…

  4. jim vackner says:

    I feel the same way you do. I always knew some people would pass away before their time but when I think about my friends form Brooklyn like Donny Rice, Drew Thomas and Albert Plantamura and the friends from Staten Island who left behind young kids and parents,it makes me very sad and angry.
    The ony fear you have when you become a parent is outliving your kids.
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend and my condolensces to the families.

  5. Jerry Cole says:


    Well said! Your words are extremely poignant. We’ve lost a very sweet person in Joanne. After reading your passage I closed my eyes and I could picture the scene of Joanne siting on the stoop all smiles and I could also hear her laughter. Joanne is gone too soon but she’ll never be forgotten.

    As younger kids especially when you were a ballplayer you always looked up to the older kids. You may have wanted to have a strong inside game like Gerard Trapp, Charlie Alberti or Danny Mahoney or a great outside shot like Jimmy Rauthier or Richie Deer. Perhaps you wanted to be a better leaper or ball handler or passer or maybe you wanted to hit a ball like one of the older guys or develope a rocket arm like them. We watched every thing they did, we practiced over and over and all of that work helped us become the player we eventually became. Of course, you also tried to add your own touch of flair.

    Interestingly, who we truly are as a person is the result of a similar process. Our families, teachers & the neighborhood we grew up in all combined to influence our development. Perhaps consciously or maybe even unconsciously we learned from others. Again, in many instances we looked to the older people around us and saw things that influenced us, their hard work, dedication, devotion, honesty are all traits that we could learn and copy and make our own. Joanne had an infectious laughter, she laughed a little easier and a lot longer than most people. That is something we could all learn to do a little more often.

    When I was at Iona College I met Jim Valvano who was the head basketball coach. He was a great man and he too was taken form this world at too early an age. I’ll never forget his speech on ESPN’s Espys before he passed away. In it he said that each day we should do the following:

    1 – Laugh
    2 – Spent some time in thought
    3 – Have your emotions moved to tears

    I can honestly say that I have already done this today. So, remember that life is short, Live, Laugh & Love.

  6. Mary Kawas-Rotolo says:

    I heard about Joanne’s passing a few days ago but I have hesitated to post a thought about her because there are so few words to say when someone so young is taken from the ones that she loves and that love her. We wonder why things like this happen and when I start to do that I remember my dad saying “Mary, don’t question God. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” Although at times I still struggle with WHY? I recall what my dad said and it makes it a little better. I have really fond memories of Joanne. Like alot of you have already said, she had a great laugh. I remember all of the fun times that we had on the cheerleading team and the swim team. We were at a swim meet one night and Joanne was on a relay. HN was way behind. Joanne was the anchor. She jumped in the pool and took the fastest, shortest strokes that I ever saw. She passed the rest of the pool in no time and HN won. I was awed.

    I want to say that I am really sorry to her family and friends because I know that she was a bright light in your lives and you will miss her very much. God Bless You.

  7. hoopscoach says:

    Jimmy, Jerry and Mary K,

    Great stuff!

    If I remember correctly you guys use to have your swim meets down SFC, right? On Friday nights? I do recall Joanne being a ‘kick-ass’ swimmer!

    I love that Valvano piece. It brings me to tears when I watch it.

  8. Annemarie McGrath says:

    Fin, Jerry, MK, everyone…I feel as though you are all sitting right next to me, just talking..Fin, that’s a testament to the way you write and lead us all into this stuff…..

    When I saw those pictures of Joanne, the thing that came to mind so readily, like it was ten seconds how freely Joanne moved….her limbs, her body, her laugh, her was all so easy….it was pretty….just her whole BEING. Her soul was never something inside…you could see it right out there on her face, in her movements…..right in her personality, you know?

    I really hoped and hoped that we were all mistaken, that this wasn’t true. I didn’t accept it, really, until I read one of the Cole’s posts about going to her funeral and hearing her children speak. …..I got nuthin.

  9. Cheryl says:

    I don’t know any of you guys, but I did know Joanne. I worked with her at the Hospital in Brandon Florida 8/9 years ago. We became freinds almost instantly. Her smile and her laugh was contagious. She was always willing to help anybody. I had just spoken with her a couple of weeks ago. I called her house last night to speak with her and I got the news. I was floored. She was like a big sister to me. I wil miss her dearly.

  10. hoopscoach says:


    Maybe you don’t know us, but now you do. Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and letting us know about Joanne.

  11. Theresa says:

    I would like to thank eveyone for there kind words about my mother. It really is amazing to see how many people she touched. On behalf of my father and two brothers, THANK YOU!

  12. hoopscoach says:


    No problem. Hang in there and stay strong. Your mother was a very nice person.

  13. Helen Cole Prestia says:


    I hope things are getting better. I’m waiting for my mail from you & I’ll be sending you a surprise in the mail soon. Love Ya XOXXO

    Aunt Helen

  14. Jerry Cole says:


    I was very sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. She was a great girl and she will really be missed. As you can see, so many people have great memories of your mom.


  15. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful ceremony for a beautiful woman, she always had a smile and that’s all that matters. She will be missed, I will keep her and your family in my prayers.

  16. Helen Cole Prestia says:

    I put your surprise in the mail today.
    Aunt Helen

  17. Helen Cole Prestia says:


    You’ve got that right. Joanne was a wonderful person. We’ve been tight since I was 7 years old and she 6 years. I am so sorry I missed her service. I would not have been able to handle it, I still can’t come to terms with the fact that Joanne is gone. My brother was there and said it was beautiful. Theresa told me Joanne always loved the song “Angel”. I played that song many times the day of her funeral mass. Well now, Joanne is one of our ANGELS, watching over all of us who have know & loved her over the years. God Bless her soul.

    Her friend till the end,

  18. Glenn Thomas says:

    It’s strange but I lived in the same parish as Joanne Mackay. I played on teams with her brother Billy from Bantam B all the way up to the summer league and although I was a year older than Joanne was I never really spoke to her that much for she and I never never ran around in the same circles. I can remember Joanne and Helen sitting on the stoop talking and if I was walking by I’d nod and say hello and go about my way. I guess part of it was that I was shy and had no idea what I would talk about back then even if I were to have attempted a conversation. I remember the Mackays as always being very respectful and hard working good people as well as The Coles. I miss the days of the neighborhood where people actually said hello and you knew your next door neighbor with regularity. Instead we now have this Manhattan-like attitute where people just sleep at their residence and don’t support the community. They shop out of the neighborhood, send their kids to schools out of the area and its like they are doing you a favor by moving in. They have no idea how the neighborhood used to be back in the old days before gentrification but we all do for we can now share our stories in the Container Diaries! Good job Coach!

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