WELLSVILLE - The news that everyone close to the Wellsville Police Department knew was coming but dreaded hearing arrived on Thursday morning. Chief Joseph Scarabino had died at 6 a.m. that morning at East Liverpool City Hospital following a months-long battle with cancer.
Scarabino joined the Wellsville Police ranks in 1980, rising to lieutenant in 2000 before being appointed chief the following year.
He turned 58 years old a week ago today. He is survived by his wife and five children.
Black bunting and wreaths bearing tributes appeared at the entrance to the Wellsville Police Department on Thursday following news that Chief Joseph Scarabino had passed away that morning at East Liverpool City Hospital. He was 58 years old. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Joseph Scarabino, who spent the last 13 of his 34 years with the Wellsville Police Department as chief, died on Thursday morning at age 58. (Submitted Photo)
The news hit very hard for Lt. Ed Wilson who, like Scarabino, has spent his entire law enforcement career with the village department. At times, Wilson became emotional describing the closeness of the bond he felt with Scarabino over the decades that they worked together. "He was definitely a brother," Wilson said.
Wilson says he had been in steady contact with Scarabino over his five-month leave of absence from the department, anticipating his eventual return. "I talked to him on the phone. I said, 'Hey, I miss you sitting in that chair over there," Wilson said.
"I had hopes - real high hopes - that they were going to fix it," he said of the chief's illness.
Officer Marsha Eisenhart, who has served 24 years at the department alongside Scarabino, fondly recalled the paternal attitude he had toward his officers, especially the younger patrolmen just out of the academy. "I think he treated all the guys like they were his kids," she said.
Following the most recent homicide in the village on March 18 of this year, Eisenhart says Scarabino called from his hospital bed in Columbus, where he was seeking treatment at the time, asking about the case and looking after the safety of his officers. "He called and said, 'What's going on? Don't let any of the guys get hurt,'" she said. "He worried to the end."
Eisenhart also admired what she described as Scarabino's hands-on approach to police work, even after being named chief, and not becoming a creature of the office. "Most chiefs, when they go home at four o'clock, you'd better not call them," she said. "Not him. He always wanted to be in it."
Councilman Don Brown paid high praise to Scarabino, whom he knew for more than 25 years. "He's one of the top chiefs that this village has ever had," Brown said. He complimented Scarabino not only on his police work, but also for his generosity and commitment to the community. One example was Scarabino's volunteering department rifles for the 21-gun salute during the Memorial Day services put on by the Wellsville Veterans Memorial Council.
"If you needed something, he was always there to help you," Brown said. "He was a good man and a good officer, and he will be sadly missed in Wellsville."
Councilman John Morrow also had fond memories of Scarabino, whom he described as a lifelong friend of the family who took him under his wing and offered advice to the then-new councilman. Morrow recalled Scarabino's kindness in looking after his grandmother while he was out of town attending Kent State University.
A favorite memory of the chief came in 2012 while riding along during a high-speed test drive of the department's new cruisers, when Morrow says the chief did his best to make him squirm in the passenger seat. "He got a kick out of that," Morrow said.
Lucille Huston, a retired reporter with The Review, also shared her memories of Scarabino, whom she found to be initially suspicious of the media. "However, our trust in one another grew, and while reporting Wellsville Police news, we became good friends," she said via email. Despite his condition, he stayed on top of what was happening in the village and shared his thoughts with her. "His greatest concern now was the growing problem of drug abuse, and although ill, remained concerned about the village of Wellsville," she said.
Roberts Funeral Home in Wellsville will handle the funeral arrangements for Scarabino.