NEW ROCHELLE, NY - The Iona College community is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Joseph "J.B." Buono at the age of 97 this morning. An Iona and New Rochelle Hall of Famer, J.B. served as an athletic trainer for more than 50 years at the College.
"New Rochelle, the Iona College community and the athletics world have lost a legend this morning," said Iona President Br. James A. Liguori. "J.B. Buono was an integral part of Iona College for the last half century and his friendship, dedication and loyalty will sorely be missed."
"J.B. cared for literally thousands of student-athletes during his time at Iona," Liguori added. “He touched the lives of each and every person that he encountered.”
Buono was hired as the full-time athletic trainer at Iona in 1960. A distinguished World War II veteran he was once described as being to Iona “what the Statue of Liberty is to New York”.
J.B. BUONO’S BIOGRAPHY
Born and raised in New Rochelle, “Buono is to Iona what the Statue of Liberty is to New York,” Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News once quoted about the legend. Once a star second baseman at New Rochelle High School, J.B. began his love for athletic training by helping tape and care for the football team. During the summers he also captained the New Rochelle Athletic Club baseball team as a second baseman. After graduation, Buono tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field under then manager Casey Stengel. He signed and went to the minor leagues earning a total of $50 per month.
In 1940 he was drafted into the United States Army. “When they picked my name out of the bowl, it was the only thing I had ever won,” said J.B. He participated in six major battles during his five years of service including the Salerno, Anzio and Southern France campaigns. He was awarded the combat infantry badge, the Good Conduct medal, the pre-Pearl Harbor badge, the Purple Heart and a Presidential Citation. J.B. was one of only eight men in his company of 18 that survived the battle at Colmar, France.
J.B. and his wife Lucille were married in 1941 and raised their three children, Barbara, Bruce and Buddy in his hometown of New Rochelle. His three children have all gone on to have families of their own. Buddy has one son, Jesse, and Barbara and her late husband Joe have five children; Lucille, Michael, Stephanie, Dana and Jennifer who passed away in 1998. Bruce and his wife Betty-Jane “B.J.” have four children; Jason, Kristen, Meredith and Jonathan. J.B. also has seven great-grandchildren; Brianna, Ricky, Michael, Gina, Chad, Katelin, and Luke
After the war, J.B. went to the nation’s finest training school in Florida, run by legendary Yankees trainer Gus Mauch. “I love sports,” said J.B., “and I figured being a trainer was one way I could stay involved.” His first job was with a minor league baseball team in Port Chester, NY. Following a stint with a Class A team in Scranton, PA, J.B. joined the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and worked with the New Orleans and Charleston teams at the AA level. In 1958 he was offered a job with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but instead he returned to New Rochelle to be with his wife who had become seriously ill. In all, Buono had spent 11 years in the Pirates organization.
In 1960, Iona College Athletic Director Jim McDermott hired J.B. as the head athletic trainer. He formed a special bond with EVERY athlete, coach and administrator he has come to know. His love for the Iona family and their adoration of J.B. is unparalleled. “The kids here are terrific, you can’t beat them. I’ve traveled around to a lot of colleges-I’ll take Iona,” said J.B.
The list of honors for J.B. is a long one. One of the most popular figures on the Iona College campus, “JB” was presented with an honorary degree from the College in 1977. Four years later, he was honored by the New York state legislature with a resolution commending him for his years at the school. In 1985 J.B. Buono was the eighth person ever inducted into the Iona College Goal Club Hall of Fame. On May 4, 1991, the renovations to the baseball field at Salesian High School were dedicated in honor of Buono as the venue was officially renamed, J.B. Buono Field. In October 1991, he was inducted into the New Rochelle Sports Hall of Fame. On Homecoming Day, October 23, 1999, Iona’s sports medicine facility was renamed the J.B. Buono Sports Medicine Center in his honor. In addition the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association presented J.B. with the Distinguished Services Award at the NIT/MBWA Awards Dinner on April 27, 2000.