An Appreciation: Joe Bellino ~ Football Legend, Patriot, and Neighbor

April 9, 2019
Joe Bellino follows Patriotic Ceremonies chair Paul Purchia to the podium at Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Day, 2015 – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved – Click to view a larger image

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

When Bedford resident and US Naval Academy Heisman Trophy winner Joesph Bellino died on March 13, tributes and accolades poured forth to celebrate his life and accomplishments in the national press. Mr. Bellino was a 1961 graduate of the Naval Academy, Navy’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 1960, and Navy’s first football player to have his number ~ 87 ~retired. And famous athletes from Roger Staubach to Bill Bellicheck shared their memories. Click this link to learn more about Mr. Bellino’s career at the Naval Academy.

As a Bedford resident, The Bedford Citizen’s appreciation of Mr. Bellino is local but no less ardent.

Mike Rosenberg, the BHS play-by-play announcer at Sabourin Field, recalled, “As recently as 2017, and occasionally over the years, I would see Joe on the sideline at a Bedford High home game – by himself, incognito, just soaking in the game for its own sake. I always respected his privacy – but would a kid even believe me if I told him, “See that ordinary looking fan over there? He won the Heisman Trophy.”

Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino (3rd from left) with the celebrated Bedford High School football team in 2013 – Image (c) JMcCT, 2013 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

At METCO’s Soul Food Dinner in 2013, Mr. Bellino quietly asked the young men who were serving dinner to wait a moment after a photograph of the volunteers. Mr. Bellino introduced himself to the suddenly awe-struck teens, members of that year’s BHS history-making football team, and they talked about football for nearly an hour.

“He was my neighbor growing up. He always had time to race you on your bike, or take a moment to talk,” recalled Judith Robinson Gonzales who grew up on Hayden Lane and now lives in Dubois, WY.  “He always had a pastry from Bellino bakery. The garage fridge always had Tahitian treat pop in it for the kids. I babysat his kids and went on vacation with them to New Hampshire. He taught me to shoot a BB gun and caught a snake that had found its ways upstairs to the girls sleeping loft.  He was really special and will be missed. God speed Mr. Bellino.”

Gonzales’s brother Corey Robinson wrote: “Very cool, to grow up with him as a neighbor.  He worked with me on kicking the football properly, [it] didn’t help but it was nice.  One year he brought me to a Patriots’ game at Fenway for my birthday. A great father and man!”

And long-time Hayden Lane resident, Dot Bergin added, “ Joe was the best neighbor anyone could have. I can’t recall how many times over the years I have called on him when my car wouldn’t start, or when I needed advice on tires to buy – he was always ready to help.“

In 2015, Joe Bellino was named the Grand Marshall of Bedford’s Memorial Day Parade. Patriotic Ceremonies Chairperson Paul Purchia remembers him as a ‘true hero who served for 29 years in active and reserve duty in the Navy, including mine-sweeping duty in Vietnam, and retired as a Captain.

“A gentleman, patriot, and great athlete, Joe was honest, humble and bigger than life. We were fortunate that Joe called Bedford his home for so many years,” Purchia concluded.


A Memorial Service to honor Joseph Bellino’s life will be held at 12:30 pm on Saturday, April 13 at St. Mary’s Church in Winchester, with a second Military Honors Memorial Service to be held at later at the U.S.Naval Academy in Annapolis. Click this link for full details


Young Joe Bellino, center, with his famous #27 jersey, and officials from the US Naval Academy – Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved
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