I’m turning this space over to Ivanna S. Pankin for some words in remembrance of one of the good ones.
I just spent the last hour searching Flickr galleries of tournaments and bouts for photos of travelling EMT, Joe Bones. It doesn’t surprise me that I can’t find any; in fact, makes perfect sense – because even though Joe probably went to more practices than most skaters, and attended more tournaments than the top 5 teams in WFTDA, he was always in the background. He didn’t ever take a victory lap or pose with a trophy, nor did he ever get much beyond the occasional pat on the back for all the hard work that he did for us. But for the last several years, as long as I can remember playing roller derby, Joe Bones has been there.
(Hurt’s note: found a photo.)
I can’t articulate how sad it makes me to know that he won’t be there anymore. Joe “Bones” Luglio died on Saturday, March 7th of natural causes in his sleep at home. I first heard that he passed away through a text message from a Tucson Derby Brat. Joe was probably best known to Tucson skaters from TRD, the Derby Brats and the Dry Heat Militia as the EMT that attended practices and every bout and tournament. But he was also there for Arizona Roller Derby bouts and who knows, maybe even the rest of the Arizona leagues.
Joe had favorite skaters and teams, but he never discriminated – he took care of all of us, including volunteering at Rollercon and covering every shift for EMTs that didn’t show up. I wonder how many of the skaters he taped, iced and cared for knew he didn’t even live in Tucson. He traveled from Yuma just to keep us safe, most recently with AZRD to the Four Corners Tournament in Colorado. If you’ve skated roller derby in the Western US, Joe was probably there.
My first memory of interacting with Joe Bones was in Tucson during the first Dust Devil. I can’t remember how it happened, but I did something minor to my back, and Joe iced it up, taped me back together, and then forced some kind of anti-dehydration drink on me before he’d agree to let me go back in to skate. I must have forgotten to drink water that whole day, because I remember sitting there thinking I could feel the drink hit my body all the way to the ends of my fingers. And then I was back in the jam.
After my team had been eliminated, between games, I ran into Joe in the hallway and thanked him. He told me he was proud of me and that my jamming had come a long way since the last time he’d seen us play TRD (which was in 2003 or 04 – the very beginning!). My team had just gotten murdered – a blowout that “broke” the scoreboard and made us the butt of jokes in the tournament, and the only bout my father had ever watched, so I was feeling really bad – and Joe’s kind words were almost as rejuvenating as the drink he gave me on the bench. I felt bad that I didn’t remember him from those early bouts. But after that I made a point to talk to Joe anytime I saw him – and I saw him a lot because he was always there.
Years later my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I moved to Tucson while he was being treated. When I first got to Tucson, I attended some TRD Sunday scrimmages as a guest, just to escape the tension and awfulness of the hospital – and there was Joe, again. It was a tough time for me and it was a huge relief to see Joe’s friendly face, so we talked a lot in the few practices I attended there. That’s when Joe told me he commuted to Tucson from his home in Yuma, and that he was joining AZRD the next season to start EMTing at their bouts, too. Yuma is 3 hours from Tucson and at least that from Phoenix, as well!
I am so glad I got to know Joe. I have met a lot of people through this sport and it has completely changed my life in a million ways. I keep writing and erasing things here because I don’t know how to capture this right. What I want to say is that in the last 5+ years of the roller derby roller coaster, I have met my share of douches – but also the totally cool people, like Joe Bones. In this little ant farm we call a sport, I’ve seen some of the jerkiest, most self-centered behavior ever from derby people – and some of the most amazingly selfless, awesome actions, as well.
Joe was one of those awesome people. He went out of his way to look after us because he loved roller derby. He carried a million dollar liability insurance policy so that he could tape up even the people who might consider suing him. He drove hundreds of miles to make sure we weren’t dehydrated at RollerCon, and all he asked for in return was a hat to keep the sun off his head while he treated us.
Joe Bones was an amazing person and I will miss him. Everyone in Arizona – “where summer goes for winter,” as Joe signed his emails, will miss him. Everyone in roller derby will miss him, even if they don’t know it yet.
Rest in Peace, Joe Bones.
Ivanna S. Pankin #22