By Seth Daniel
When Joe Rainone would score a touchdown for the Everett High Crimson Tide, he never spiked the ball or did a touchdown dance.
Instead, the quiet leader and superstar running back from the late 1980s would look for the referee and run over to hand him the ball.
Despite his records and exploits on the field, he was never too big to help someone in need or too good to welcome anyone.
“It was just his presence,” said his older brother, Bobby Barrett. “He made everyone that came in contact with him feel better…I was his father figure because I was 11 years older and his father had been out of the picture for awhile. He would wait for me outside with his bat and ball to go hit him grounders. I couldn’t wait to get home to see the kid. He picked up on little things. He was just a great son of Everett.”
Rainone, 44, passed away suddenly on Feb. 26, leaving many in the City at a loss and emotionally affected.
This week, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the family remember Rainone – nicknamed ‘Rizz’ by his family – to unveil a drawing of the former DPW worker.
DeMaria said he met Rainone on the football field when he was a freshman. The quiet leader and DeMaria immediately became friends, and he said the next few years the whole team bonded around Rainone.
“What I want other kids to know about him is that even though he was the best player on the field, he never acted like it,” said the mayor. “He made everyone feel important. He was a guy that united players. He always took those who were disadvantaged under his wing. There was always a seat at his table for anybody and everybody.”
Rainone still holds records on the football field for touchdowns scored in a season – the 1988-89 season.
However, his brother said he was a natural athlete from day one, and no one who knew him was surprised that he excelled on the field.
“He was a tremendous athlete from day one, just knew how to do everything,” said Bobby. “In his very first T-ball game he had three unassisted triple plays. The other kids would run around kind of crazy and he just knew every situation and knew what to do. They would hit a ground ball and he just ran and tagged everyone out. It was hysterical. Some parents wondered if it was even legal. He was just a natural and he loved baseball.”
Soon, however, as football is king in Everett, Rainone migrated to Pop Warner and the gridiron.
“He was even kind of a legend as a kid,” said Barrett. “When he rushed for 1,000 yards in high school, he was the first to do that since 1963. He had a gift and he had instincts. He had a nose for the ball and they wouldn’t let him play defense, but he always wanted to. When they did, he would intercept the ball and always ran it back for a touchdown. Most importantly, he was a quiet leader. Every time he scored a touchdown, he never spiked it or danced or jumped around. He would look for the referee and hand the ball to him.”
Mayor DeMaria said Rainone came back to Everett in 2008 after spending several years in Las Vegas. He was looking for an opportunity and found it at the DPW. There, DeMaria said, Rainone flourished.
“He had a lot of pride in Everett and he was just Joe Rai, his head down like a bull and so appreciative,” said DeMaria. “He was a great employee. For nine years, he would send me three to five text messages a day about issues at the DPW and things that need attention or correction. He had his eyes and ears on the street.”
But DeMaria and Barrett said he also had his heart on his sleeve, and was willing to help anyone. So much so that it was probably to a fault.
“I think it’s like his brother said in the eulogy,” said the mayor. “He gave so much of his heart that he had none left. I kind of believe that. He left an impact on a lot of peoples’ lives.”