was beloved by everyone who knew him, from classmates, to teammates, to teachers and coaches, and parents of fellow students. By all acounts he was the ideal son, brother, friend, student, athlete.
On Oct. 24, Joey collapsed on the playing field at the University of Rhode Island with a 105-degree temperature during a pre-season baseball practice. He died three days later after his kidneys and liver failed. He was 20 years old.
His former Amity teammates and coaches went to Rhode Island Hospital to visit him, among them, Hockey Coach Gary Lindgren.
On Friday, Oct. 28, Lindgren talked to Patch about his relationship and admiration for Joey, his voice often breaking up during the conversation.
"Joey and I had a very special and unique relationship outside of coaching him for four years. There are certain kids that come along and make a difference in so many ways, and Joey was one of those kids that mad life better for anyone who knew him," Lindgren said. "I admired so much about him as a person outside of being an outstanding student athlete at Amity. He was an amazing person that could light up a room with a big personality, well admired by so many coaches, friends. This is a devastating loss."
"He was a competitor and a leader on the field and on the ice, but to me he was so much more. He was a great young man that had so much potential and so much promise, and I don't think that any of us will ever have any answers as to why any of this happened," he said. "The Amity community is at a loss and our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Today was a day where a lot of students were really feeling this, especially the seniors who had a relationship with him. A lot of former teammates came by. It's amazing how these young people all pull together when tragedy hits. They are there for one another and I know they will be there for Joey's family."
"I feel blessed to have known him. I was able to visit him on Wednesday in Rhode Island. The doctors told me even though he was in a coma that he could still hear me, and just being able to talk with him was something that I can hold onto," Lindgren said. "I have so many great memories that I can hold onto with Joey. Knowing him since eighth grade and watching him grow from a boy to a young man and move onto college was so rewarding."
"It's so sad, waking up and knowing that he's not here, but his spirit will live on, and anyone who knew him was fortunate to have that opportunity because he made such a difference in this world," Lindgren said. "We'll pull together and help one another. His family will need our support. His mom is unbelievable and his sister Lindsay. He will be missed."
"Joey was a star, as great as an athlete as he was, he was a tremendous person too. His services will be a tribute to his life." he said.
Amity Athletic Director Paul Mengold also admired Joey and everything that he brought to Amity.
Mengold echoed much of Lindgren's thoughts when he spoke to Patch the day after Joey's death.
"He was a tremendous kid, one of the nicest kids we've had here at Amity and one of the best athletes I've had here at Amity High School," he said. "He was an outstanding representative for his family and for our school athletic department. He was the poster child for what you want high school students to be, always humble, gracious, always had a smile on his face — I don't think I ever saw him without a smile on his face."
"He was humble… humble as the day is long, just never put himself ahead of the team concept. He was gracious when he received awards, always thought of it as a team, not as an individual accomplishment. He was best friends to everybody no matter what path they were on — he was comfortable with kids from every demographic in our school," he said. "Most of the people at the school are numb. It's so hard to see this happen to someone so young. He touched so many people, he was so well liked. Some of our students who are still here played baseball and hockey with him when he was here and they are really feeling the loss."
"We've heard from athletic directors from throughout the league…it's a nice testament to who he was," Mengold said.
Funeral services for will be held this weekend.
Friends and family may call tonight, Friday, Nov. 4 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Cody-White Funeral Home, 107 Broad St., Milford.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Alumni Association of URI - URI Baseball, URI Baseball Office, 3 Kearny Rd, Ste 1, Kingston, RI 02881; or to the Ronald McDonald House, 45 Gay St., Providence, RI. 02905.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. at Holy Infant Church, 450 Racebrook Road, Orange. Interment to follow at Orange Center Cemetery.
Update: Late Friday afternoon and into the evening, friends and family gathered at Cody White Funeral Home, braving the cold for up to 90 minutes to pay thier respects.
First Selectman Jim Zeoli was there, behind him, one of his farmhands, Kurt Wehr (Joey Ciancola's Amity Hockey teammate).
The Funeral Home usually snakes the line around the front of the building, but tonight, the mourners looped their way around the rear parking lot, onto the sidewalk and back into the parking lot behind the building. It could have been because it was safer for the visitors or to keep the Town Green from becoming a media circus as it often does for "important" occasions such as this.
Aside from an occasional train whistle, the rear parking lot was much more quiet than the roadway with dozens of cars and pickup trucks passing by every minute. Friends had the privacy they needed to hug, reminisc and simply catch up with one another.
The Friday night Varsity Football game was postponed until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, so friends could attend the wake.