On Father’s Day, Giants’ Joe Judge remembers his late dad

They say time heals, but some wounds never do. Not completely.

This is the third Father’s Day Giants coach Joe Judge will spend without his dad, named Joseph at birth and called “Joskie’’ by almost everyone. Those closest to their parents feel the loss, every day, and especially at times like this.

When one of them is gone, every new job or family milestone, every birth or goal or touchdown or dance recital — everything, really — is diminished, sometimes wistfully so, sometimes terribly so, always deeply so.

It is the cycle of life, a reality children hope to fend off as long as possible. Judge had his dad for 36 years, for 36 Father’s Days, but this Sunday he will again rely on his memories. For the first time, Judge, 38, celebrates and endures a Father’s Day as the head coach of the New York Giants. His is an immense achievement for one so young, someone who was so off the radar, until he unexpectedly vaulted to the head of the candidate class with one outrageously impressive interview.

These are heady times for Joe Judge. He, his wife and their four kids are settling into their new house in Franklin Lakes, N.J., after spending the past eight years living in North Attleboro, Mass., not far from Judge’s workplace in Foxborough when he was a special teams assistant and later coordinator for the Patriots. The all-remote, COVID-19-driven offseason program is complete — there is one more week for the rookies — and Judge can spend this Father’s Day relaxing. He will reminisce about his late father, because that is what sons do on days like this.

“It is tough,’’ Judge told The Post in a recent interview. “I don’t get so much into my own — my kids get me presents, and I love seeing their smiles and all. I was very close with my own father. When he passed a few years ago, with him being gone it does get tough. It does get tough.’’

Joseph Judge, Joe Judge and Denise Judge.Judge Family

Wherever he was, whether in college at Mississippi State or any of his previous coaching stops, Judge made sure to return to Doylestown, Pa., to spend Father’s Day at home — with his family, with his mom, Denise, younger sister Jeannine, older brother Jimmy and, of course, his dad.

“It was always after spring football,’’ Judge said. “I’d make sure we had the weekend together to eat, catch up and talk and just laugh and tell jokes and spend some time when we’re not on the phone. That was kind of one of the weekends I could mark down every year that was going to be for me and my dad, and my brother, sitting down and just kind of spending time together.

“So it does get a little bit, you always want to share good moments and there’s some opportunities that have come into my life that I wish my father could share in. But hey, look, he’s the one who worked hard to give me the opportunity to put me in a position where I could follow my dreams. I just celebrate Mother’s Day twice as hard now.’’

Joseph Judge played football at Temple and in the Canadian Football League, worked as a salesman in the beverage business, was Joe’s CYO football coach — a big man with a big presence and an innate ability to will those around him to do what he believed was best for them by the sheer force of his nurturing personality.

Joe Judge’s father Joseph lifts teammates at Temple.Judge Family

“Joe’s father was the type of guy, if he asked you something you would do it,’’ Frank Panariello, one of Judge’s high school friends, told The Post from Philadelphia. “Joe himself has the same characteristics. That’s why his being a coach doesn’t surprise me. People will listen to him — you kind of want to do for him.’’

Judge changed school districts and arrived at Lansdale Catholic High School as a freshman needing to find a new group of friends — not easy at that age.

“A lot of people didn’t like him too much, because he was just a kid from another school,’’ Panariello said. “We got along from the start. Joe was a jokester. Fun to hang out with.’’

Soon enough, the Joe Judge way of persuasion — a trait he shared with his father — became apparent. Judge would crave a cheesesteak from Geno’s Steaks. His buddies said no, too far to go. Judge badgered so long and hard that they almost always relented, if only to quiet him down as he filled his stomach.

When Judge wanted to get out of the area for college, his dad manned the phones, relentlessly calling around to find a Division I program for his son. He helped another one of Joe’s friends, Matt Stairiker, put together a football highlight tape that aided in his recruitment at Allegheny College. He tried to get Panariello to consider joining the National Guard.

When Judge left for Mississippi State, Panariello’s mother, Maria Rosa, was sick with breast cancer. Frank was set to play soccer, locally, at Delaware Valley College, and his mother was concerned about him. She asked the Judge family to take him in — they lived about a block away from the Delaware Valley soccer field. So, Frank Panariello not only lived for nearly two years with the Judges, he stayed in Joe’s room. Even looked after Joe’s dog.

People started calling him “Second-string Joey.’’

Every so often, Joseph Judge would ask Panariello to mow the lawn or do a few odds and ends around the house.

“It was a great experience,’’ Panariello said. “I loved it, it was neat. Just like I was his son. My mother had Mr. Judge make sure I would go to school. They just took me in with open arms. It was amazing.’’

Frank Panariello and Joe Judge at Fenway ParkJudge Family

Asked what he called Joseph Judge, Panariello said “Dad, most of the time.’’

Panariello sometimes would accompany Joseph Judge on 14-hour car rides to Starkville, Miss., to visit Joe. It is the stuff of Judge family legend that Joseph got an English bulldog because that was the breed of the Mississippi State mascot. During one trip, Joseph brought the bulldog and actually got onto the field for a football game at Davis Wade Stadium by convincing someone his dog was “Bully,’’ the actual team mascot.

The Judge house was where Joe’s friends hung out and were put to work. Putting in patios. Digging French drains. Yard work. No one could resist the force that was Mr. Judge.

“Joey’s relentless pursuit comes from his dad,’’ said Stairiker, who played CYO football with Judge, and was his center and guard when Judge played quarterback in high school. “His dad would never let up. We would have, I guess you could call them, ‘activities.’ It was phrased as voluntary but you knew it wasn’t voluntary. He was such a big person, both physically but also his personality … it’s hard to describe.’’

As Joe Judge rose through the coaching ranks, from Mississippi State to Birmingham-Southern to Alabama to the Patriots, father and son would talk after every game.

“Definitely with the football they had the bond, but more than that he taught him how to be, like, an actual adult,’’ Panariello said.

Joseph Judge took sick with cancer. For years, he walked with the aid of a cane. He died July 21, 2017, at the age of 66.

Panariello, a groomsman at the wedding of Joe and Amber — they met in college — was right beside Joe as they walked the casket out together for the funeral.

Joe Judge lifts up teammates at Mississippi State recreating the same picture his father took at Temple.Judge Family

“Around people he kept his composure and stayed strong but he took it hard,’’ Panariello said. “It was a big loss for everybody. There is never a time you want to lose your father or mother, but I think it was a time he really would have loved to turn around and maybe ask a few more questions. His eulogy was well-spoken, he stayed focused and strong, but behind closed doors he wept. It was a tough time, for sure.’’

Judge dealt with the loss “the way he handles everything,’’ said Stairiker, a manufacturing engineer at Edmund Optics in Barrington, N.J.

“He takes it in stride,’’ Stairiker said. “I think when I saw him, his mom, his brother and sister, when I saw them at the funeral I broke down and lost it. Joey, he stayed strong.’’

When Judge was hired as the 19th head coach in Giants history, he said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my own father, who was my first coach and taught me the most important lesson is you hold those you expect the most from at the highest standard.’’

Joskie Judge was a huge Eagles fan, a fact not lost on those taken aback when the Giants chose his son.

“Mr. Judge might have had some choice words for Joey about that,’’ Stairiker said, laughing. “Like, ‘You know Joey, you probably could have checked in with me before doing this.’ Then he probably would have pushed to move up to New York.’’

When the hiring became official, Panariello — who owns Toro Landscaping and Property Services in Lansdale, Pa. — purchased two New York Giants hats and placed them on the gravestone of Joseph Judge at St. John Neumann Cemetery. He sent a picture and the message, “Don’t worry, we’re good,’’ to his friend Joe.

“I’m sure he’s beside Joe now,’’ Panariello said. “Just in a different way.’’

Judge on this Father’s Day prefers to think about what he had and not what he lost.

“It’s one of those deals, hey listen,’’ he said quietly. “I was fortunate to have him for that long.’’


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