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Disabilities Rights Activist Dies

By Olin Ericksen

Oct. 20 -- Joe Paolucci -- a community activist and well-known champion for poeple with disabilities -- died October 15 of a heart attack in his home. He was 61.

Wheelchair bound since 1991 after a series of strokes, Paolucci was appointed by City officials to serve on a two-member commission that helped businesses become more accessible. Paolucci also served on the Disabilities Commission, which he pushed the City Council to establish.

"He was key player and very instrumental in helping forge the Disabilities Commission," said Pro Se, a friend and fellow activist who has been wheelchair bound for the past 14 years.

"On top of his work there, he would devote twenty hours of his time to reading books to children who had no home," Pro Se said. "He was not a person who whines and complains about circumstances."

Jenny Scheer, Paolucci's girlfriend of six years, agreed. What she remembers most about Paolucci was that he had a big heart.

"We met a little before working as part of the disabilities task force," said Scheer, who lived with Joe up until his death. "Joe was a very strong figure in that group, always looking out for other's rights. That was Joe."

Paolucci impacted hundreds of people locally as a volunteer for the Red Cross and homeless outreach programs, such as the Upward Bound House, Scheer said

Paolucci served two terms in Vietnam as a Marine in the early 1960's where he sustained a gunshot that shattered his knee, Scheer said. He traversed the globe with the Merchant Marines and the stocky 5'8", 180 pounder even caught a few passes as a wide receiver with the 1964 Philadelphia Eagles.

Scheer said his career on the gridiron was cut short because of the wound he received in Vietnam. "He never talked much about that, and I didn't ask," she said.

Paloucci always managed to make the most of life, no matter what cards were dealt him, according to Scheer.

Born in Philadelphia in 1943, Joeseph Paolucci's father died before his birth, and his mother died when he was just a toddler, leaving him to grow up in an orphanage until he was 12, when his sister was finally old enough to take care of him.

After his tours of duty and stint in football, Paolucci moved to Southern California in the early 1970s, where he worked as an independent contractor. Paolucci fathered two children, yet tragically, his son, who was in the Navy, died in helicopter crash.

"That really hit Joe hard, but he managed to get along and remain positive, keep giving, like he always did," Scheer said.

His daughter, now in her twenties lives on the east coast.

A memorial for Joe Paloucci will be held Monday at 5 p.m. at the Ken Edwards Center, an hour before the Disabilities Commission meeting commences.





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