John Fasano, a longtime Port Washington resident who in 1946 won the Thorp Award, given by Newsday to the outstanding high school football player in Nassau County, died in Toms River, New Jersey, of renal failure on July 31. He was 88.
“His great love, next to his wife Mary, was Port Washington,” Felicia Fasano, a daughter, said.
Fasano lived in Port Washington nearly his whole life and moved away about four and a half years ago when his wife died, Felicia said.
“Coach Faz,” is what many Port Washington residents called him, “everyone loved him, he had a great sense of humor, and he would talk to everyone,” she said. Her father would walk all around the village and strike up conversation with everyone, from business owners to passersby, Felicia said.
One of those business owners was Chris Avazis, the owner of Arena Sport and Graphics, a sporting goods store at 52 Main Street. For about 15 years, Coach Faz liked to come and “shoot the breeze,” about local sports teams and players, Avazis said. “He was a pleasure to be around,” he added.
Avazis added that Coach Faz was a “fixture” on Main Street, and that he “had a great sense of humor,” and was “a very humble guy,” who always diverted questions about his own accomplishments to talk about other people instead.
Many former students and teammates agreed that Coach Faz was extremely modest. Fasano was a teacher and the coach of the football and track team at Westbury High School, Felicia said. He taught drivers education and was the head of the business department.
“John was always pretty humble, even at Alfred [University], when he was selected to be on the small college All-American team,” Bartolo Cosolito, a friend and former teammate who went to Port Washington High School and Alfred University with Fasano, said. Fasano was named as a honorable mention for the small college All-American team in 1953, Cosolito added.
At Alfred, Fasano played offensive and defensive guard. “He had a big role; he was a ferocious blocker and tackler,” Cosolito said. The Alfred football team went undefeated during Fasano’s senior year and Fasano was inducted into the hall of fame at what is now Paul D. Schreiber High School, he added.
Coach Faz was so humble about his accomplishments that his players only learned that he had won the Thorp Award from the paper and others, said James Reardon, a former player and student of Fasano’s.
John Nitti, one of Fasano’s former players who played for the Jets from 1981 to 1983 and briefly for the Giants in 1983, agreed. “He would say that the only reason he got it [Thorp Award] was because he returned a fumble for a touchdown for a big football game.”
Fasano’s ability to make people laugh was also renowned. “He was funny as hell,” Reardon said. He recounted the time he helped Fasano paint his house. “He would call me dutch boy, after Dutch Boy paint, or Rembrandt, he was funny like that,” Reardon said.
“Even when he was serious on the football field and yelling at us, he would say something to you and you couldn’t help but laugh,” Nitti added.
Other than his humor and modesty, Coach Faz was also caring, Nitti said. Nitti recounted meetings at Fasano’s house, where he and a few other players would talk about the game and about life. Nitti said they stayed in touch by talking on the phone until a few months ago.
He was “very warm, very inquisitive, loved to know about everything,” Felicia added. Fasano was a “renaissance man,” who was an artist and loved music, she said. Her father also served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1953 during the Korean conflict.
He would also frequently attend local football games even after he retired.
The celebrated football player was the first in his family to go to college, she added.
In addition to Felicia, Fasano is survived by his brother, James, another daughter, Frances Davis, and two grandchildren. Felicia is an Emmy Award-nominated casting director in Los Angeles. Davis is the activities director at The Fairways, an active adult community in Lakewood, New Jersey. Fasano’s son, John, was a screenwriter, film producer and director in Hollywood. He died in 2014.
Fasano’s granddaughter, Lucia, is a stand-up comedian and musician in Portland, Oregon. His grandson, John Cody Fasano, works in the film industry in Los Angeles.
Many former students expressed their love for Fasano on Facebook or by getting in touch with his family. One former student even drove to the burial in New Jersey from Rhode Island and told them that Fasano was “like a father to him,” because he didn’t have one, Felicia said.