Joe Falzone—soldier, civilian still on duty

Joe Falzone—soldier, civilian still on duty

By By Mike Cannariato, Rockford Resident

July 17, 1969-2002

Thirty-three years ago, Joe Faizone came home from Vietnam after doing bunker patrol in the hills of Southeast Asia.

Thirty-three years later, Joey still does “bunker patrol” at the Winnebago County Courthouse.

The “painter’s son from South Rockford,” Falzone still provides protection and service as a courthouse security officer. “Joe’s done a great job for us. He’s low key, but reliable and thorough,” says Dominic Iasparro, deputy chief of the Rockford Police Department. “He has a heart as good as gold. He treats those with whom he has contact, with respect and dignity. Joe is dedicated to protecting his community as he did his country.”

But Joe’s time in Vietnam, often isolated in a bunker miles away from base camp, was stressful and threatening. He was wounded in action on June 6, 1969, “exactly one year after Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed, the 25th anniversary of D-Day.” His exemplary service resulted in being honored with a Purple Heart. Falzone remembers:

“Family is what kept me going, to see them again; so you can’t give up!”

Joe mentions many of the local veterans with whom he served when he talks about Vietnam.

“Ralph (Barcelona) and Ron (White) went in on the buddy plan. Ronnie came home and he’s a judge. Wonder what Ralph could have become?… Spike (Steve) Stone was the first guy from Rockford I met in Vietnam, during monsoon season. Spike already had 10 months in country, and I had three. We had no ammo, but you’re going to have to get the rest of that story from Spike, or read his book.”

Falzone smiles, glances away from the screens in his office, looks out towards the front door, and continues.

“It’s great to look around and see so many military veterans that are police officers, still here under Sheriff Meyers.”

Joe seldom discusses his wartime experiences, but his few words speak volumes.

“Some days you’re on the hills with artillery on a firebase; sometimes you were one of eight to 12 guys on patrol beyond the firebase perimeter. Unless you were there, you couldn’t know. I wish I didn’t know what I know.”

Falzone was a co-founder of Viet Now, now an international veterans’ organization that was started in Rockford with Nick Parnello, whom Joe also met in ‘Nam through another local veteran, Gerald Russo.

“It was through Russo that I met Nick Parnello. When I met Nicky at base camp, we dreamed about Maria’s (restaurant), and we vowed when we got home to set up a supper club for Vietnam vets at, where else, Maria’s. The Casons have been our hosts the first Tuesday of every month since.”

Joe pauses, shakes his head and smiles.

“Thirty-three years ago, I came home to Rockford, and the building I work in was just built.”

The familiar voice that is “Courthouse Security… Falzone,” 33 years after being E5 Sergeant Falzone, remains the “eyes” of the Public Safety Building and the courthouse. He seems to see what’s happening in the courthouse before you do, even while you’re looking at it.

“After all these years, I’m answering people’s questions before they even ask.”

Security can no longer be overlooked, and with Joe, it is evident. Just ask Anna Marie Arbisi, office manager at the State’s Attorney’s office.

“Ever seen the ‘Soup Nazi’ on Seinfeld? We call Joe the ‘card Nazi.’ No card, no entry! You had better come in the right door! And that’s the way it should be. We feel very safe having Joe here.”

According to Sue Fiduccia, county coroner, “Joe is the overseer. He sees all and knows all.”

To Cathy Williams, the chief judge’s secretary, Joe is more than the “sentry of the courthouse (who provides) peace of mind for all personnel. He’s the eyes of all . . . always there to greet you with a good morning and sometimes even a donut.” Cathy used “pride, zest, fairness, loyalty, orderliness… excellence” in her description of Falzone.

Bill Henbest, director of the Financial Compliance unit within the State’s Attorney’s office, also appreciates Falzone’s upbeat, friendly but efficient manner.

“Some of those he encounters might be in a rather hostile frame of mind. But Joe’s unique approach is very effective. He thinks on his feet and can adjust to the different circumstances he faces. He exudes great confidence, and is a true good will ambassador for Winnebago County.”

Sue La May, from City Administration at the Rockford Police Department, communicates regularly with Falzone.

“I truly appreciate working with someone like Joe. He’s very dedicated to his job, and I can count on him. We have a great working relationship. And I also enjoy hearing his stories from his vacations in Mexico.”

Uince Murphy, director of Court Services, added, “When Joe is on the job, that courthouse is secure. It couldn’t be in better hands.”

Wendy Fosburg, administrative assistant to the circuit clerk, is one of many interviewed who also agrees with Murphy.

“We feel very safe knowing Joe Falzone is in charge. It seems like he’s here every day.”

Marc Gasparini, circuit clerk, also commends Falzone. “Joey is a true patriot, a man of great integrity, faith and honor. I am glad to call him my friend.”

Falzone is quick to include the people he works with as he reflects upon his job.

“Charley Jackson creates a relaxed but efficient atmosphere here. There’s no stars on this team. Without teamwork, you can never win. What keeps it together is working together, so you won’t need any bunker patrol.”

Steve Connell, deputy county clerk, sums it up. “Joe continues to serve his country and his community in a job he enjoys. Thanks for everything, Joe, and welcome home!”

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