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Joe Conte, Southland Dean of Sports Officials, Dies

The Eagle Rock graduate would have been 79 years old on Fourth of July.

Joe Conte, a well-known Los Angeles sports official and Eagle Rock High School alumnus, died June 18 after a long battle with cancer—one of the few fights he lost in a sports career spanning more than 40 years.

Considered the dean of Southland sports officials, Conte served as referee or umpire in five collegiate and high school games—football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and softball. He was a fixture at games all over the Los Angeles area, from USC to UCLA and beyond.

Conte, who would have been 79 years old on the Fourth of July, died with his family by his bedside, five minutes after the end of Fathers’ Day, according to his son, Joe Conte, Jr., an Eagle Rock resident.

Conte graduated from in the winter of 1951, said Joe Conte, Jr., who, along with his brother Mike and two sons, is also an ERHS alumnus.

In October 2011, Conte was inducted into the Eagle Rock High School Sports Hall of Fame. In January 2012, he had open heart surgery, which caused his cancer to resurface after being in remission for three and a half years, Joe Conte, Jr., told Patch.

A lifelong Eagle Rock resident, Conte will be sorely missed by his many friends and fellow sports aficionados. Funeral services are scheduled at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, located at 1130 E. Wilson Ave., Glendale, 91206. A reception commemorating Conte’s life will be held after the service.

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Excerpts from a recent dedication to Joe Conte by the California Football Officials Association:

The California Football Officials Association dedicates this Study Guide Manual to Joe Conte, Sr. of the San Gabriel Unit in recognition of his many contributions to football officiating.

Joe is a native of Southern California. He attended Eagle Rock High School, where he was a five sport Varsity Letterman (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Track and Gymnastics). From Eagle Rock Joe went on to play baseball at Pasadena City College and the University of Southern California. Joe played three years of professional baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization before serving two years in the United States Navy.

Joe has been around sports all his life either as a player, coach, or official. Joe started his officiating career in 1969, working football, basketball, and baseball games. Let’s take a moment to reflect on that number—43 years of officiating, mentoring, teaching, and most importantly, making things better for all those around him.  

In addition to these sports, he currently officiates softball and volleyball. Joe was one of the founding fathers of the San Gabriel Valley football, basketball, and baseball units.  During his career, Joe has served as president of the San Gabriel Valley football, basketball, baseball, and softball units. Joe is the past Instructional Chairman of the San Gabriel Valley Football Unit, a position is has held for more than 10 years. Along with these duties, Joe is also the CIF Liaison for San Gabriel Valley, the Past President of the California Football Official Association, and Past Secretary for the California Basketball Officials Association.

Joe and his wife JoAnn will celebrate their 56th anniversary this year. They have two sons, Joe Jr., an experienced football, basketball and baseball official in the San Gabriel Valley Unit for the past 37 years, and Mike, who also officiated all three sports for 20 years. Joe is very proud of his three grandsons, Joey (27), Matthew (23), and Mason (18), Matthew is also a football, softball and volleyball official.   

Joe has worked at just about every level in his officiating career ranging from Division 1 Basketball to JC Football and Baseball, to high school games. In his 43 years of officiating, Joe has gained the respect of not only his partners but of the many coaches, athletic directors, and spectators. 

As an official, one of the greatest compliments that you can bestow on another official is the word “RESPECT”. Respect is a word that all of us in officiating continuously strive for. To earn the respect of your colleagues and coaches is a difficult task, and is something that is accomplished through hard work, fairness, dedication and great leadership. 

There is no question that Joe is one of the most respected officials in Southern California.

Henk Friezer June 26, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Headline should have read " southland dean of sports OFFICIALS" I would like to add a personal note. Joe was a good friend and a class guy, I will truly miss his smile and conversations and dry humor at football games. There will be a huge void in high school sporting events, but I am sure Joe will be watching with flag and whistle in hand ready to make a call. RIP Joe.
Ajay Singh (Editor) June 26, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Thanks, Henk—headline's been tweaked.
Mike Zois June 27, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I worked with Joe back in the day and he was also a friend of my Dad. Sorry to hear about his passing.

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