When Jan Matisco went to work for John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento in 1972, she and her husband came as a package deal for the students of the school. Joe sought out ways to help students succeed whether it was through tutoring or sports. In the four decades Jan and Joe worked at the high school, they touched the lives of many students at Kennedy. Joe was nominated as Senate District 6 Unsung Hero by a former Kennedy High School student who spoke of the countless hours Joe and Jan spent dedicating themselves to the school. Joe passed away in the summer of 2017 and we asked Jan to tell us more about his purposeful life.
Educator, John F. Kennedy High School
Tell us about Joe and your family:
Joe was born in Dorchester, VA in 1931 to Alexander and Virginia Matisco. Joe's father came here through Ellis Island from Hungary to work in the coal mines. Joe's father was injured in an accident (coal mines) and died when Joe was a small baby; his mother was killed 3 years later. Joe and his older brother were placed in the Baptist Orphanage when Joe was 6 years old, where he stayed until he graduated in 1951. He later graduated from the University of Richmond with a BS degree and then did his tour with the US Marines. He later came to California and sold advertising for Labor Union Organizations before going into teaching. Joe and Jan are also animal "people" and have done volunteering with SSPCA and SPIN (Sacramento Pets In Need) for many years.
How did Joe make a difference in Your Community?
Education was always important to Joe, for himself, family and basically everyone. When Jan went to work at John F. Kennedy High School in 1973, she would "find" students needing academic help and "talked Joe" into tutoring these students, naturally for free! He realized there was such a need for educational help for students and continued "his" program through adult school and the Career Center of Sacramento City Unified School District. Oftentimes the Matisco's purchased the monthly bus passes to give to the Joe's students needing transportation to classes. Joe worked tried his best to accommodate any student that needed help, even tutoring through the phone. Joe was working on future lessons for the fall tutoring when he was taken from us in August.
What inspired Joe's community efforts?
Joe was encouraged to go into teaching by friends and by Helen Ingram, JFK High School administrator. When Joe began to see and share in the success of tutoring, teaching, fundraising for high school sports, and the SCTA scholarships, he told Jan, "We have to keep doing these projects as long as we can because there is such a desperate need for help. "Many of those educational projects led to close relationships for Joe and Jan and many remain with them today.
What accomplishment of Joe's are you most proud of?
Joe supported and encouraged our son, Richard, to pursue the teaching profession because he saw Richard had the natural qualities needed to be a successful teacher. (Richard also tutored several of Joe's students in specific subjects) He told Richard you have the patience for the job and diligence to get the educational message across to any type of student. Joe was correct! His dream of Richard's very successful teaching became a reality with Professor Hunt's career at Humphrey University. And a plus: Richard was so happy teaching.
What would you say was his biggest struggle in life?
Not being raised in a normal home/family. Joe was a small boy when he was placed in the Baptist Orphanage after the death of his parents. He told Jan, "You had to learn real quickly how to take care of yourself and also not trust people 100%." "Be willing to fight for yourself." He realized and appreciated his stay at the orphanage because he had a clean, healthy environment and was able to go to school - he loved learning. He often told stories of his life at the orphanage and was in the process of writing those stories for his family. He told everyone he was blessed with Jan and Richard as his family and Jan's parents, etc. They were his entire life and he always put "his family" first. He said he was blessed to see our family grow with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
What kind of lessons did you or Joe work to instill in future generations?
He urged our family and "adopted families" to continue education and/or training in their lives, to reach goals and careers of their choice - to be happy with their lives and careers. Along with those lessons came financial help for all of them. Joe would often say, "Jan, now is when they need our help." It was a fulfilling feeling to witness these happy and successful events through the years. We never stopped with these projects and Jan will continue as that is what Joe would enjoy.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix - what would it be?
Joe and Jan both have been concerned that our nation's population has forgotten THE GOLDEN RULE: Helping others, treating our fellow man like we want to be treated. Respect, safety, and a helping hand when someone needs it, on a volunteer basis. Not just thinking, "What is in it for me?' We definitely need to regroup and work together for our community and man-kind.