Jan. 19, 2007

Joe Signaigo passed away January 16, 2007. He leaves his wife of 58 years, Thelma Pieroni Signaigo, three children, Sharon S. Thompson, Stephen J. Signaigo, Janet M. Signaigo, nine grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Joe Signaigo is a graduate of Catholic High School in Memphis, Tennessee where he monogrammed in every sport offered. He was a member of “The All Radio Eleven” for football his sophomore year. He was a member of both The Commercial Appeal and Memphis Press Scimitar “All Memphis” teams in his junior and senior years. As a baseball player, Signaigo voted to the “All Star” team as well as being named to the “All Memphis” teams by The Commercial Appeal and Memphis Press Scimitar. As a junior, he was Memphis Prep League heavyweight boxing champion.

Signaigo received a football scholarship to The University of Notre Dame. In 1942, he was selected as captain of the freshman football team that included Johnny Lujack and Emil Sitko. As a sophomore in 1943, he was the starting right guard for the National Champion Notre Dame team and received acclaim as one of the top linemen in the country. He was named to several All-American teams including the Italian-American All-American team of 1943 that included Angelo Bertelli, the Heisman Trophy winner of that year.

During World War II, Joe served three years in the United States Marine Corps. He returned to Notre Dame and played on the National Championship teams in 1946 and 1947. He graduated from Notre Dame in June 1948. He was selected to the college “All Star” team and played against the National Football League champion, the Chicago Cardinals.

After graduation, Signaigo played three years of professional football beginning in 1948 with the New York Yankees, who were part of the “All American Conference”. Joe made the All Star team of that conference in both 1948 and 1949. In 1950 the All-American Conference and the National Football League merged. Joe was selected to the All Pro team of 1950 in the National Football league. He retired from professional football that year.

He was recalled to active duty with the United States Marine Corps for the Korean War.

When Joe returned from military service, he began a business career in the beer industry that took him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later to Atlanta, Georgia in a regional management position. He later formed his own company, a wholesale beer distributorship, Premium Brands, Inc., in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Signaigo married the former Thelma Pieroni of Memphis, Tennessee. They have one son, Stephen Signaigo, and two daughters, Sharon Signaigo Thompson and Janet Signaigo. They also have nine grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Aside from his business and family life, Signaigo devotes much of his time to community affairs. He is the past President of the Liberty Bowl Festival Association and also served on the Board of Directors and the team selection committee. He was on the Board of Directors of Christian Brothers University as well as the Board of Directors for United American Bank. Signaigo also served on the Tennessee Olympic Committee. He was the President of the Memphis Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Organization. He was the past Director of the Mid South Fair, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Memphis area Better Business Bureau. Signaigo is also the past Chairman of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce Sports Committee. He was the past President of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association as well as the past President of the Memphis Malt Beverage Association.

Joe Signaigo has received many honors including:

  • Outstanding Italian American by the Memphis Chapter Of UNICO in 1983
  • Distinguished American Award from the Memphis Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame in 1984
  • Inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1985
  • Distinguished Alumni Award from Memphis State University in 1986
  • “Signaigo” Soccer Field dedication at Christian Brothers University in 1986
  • Received the National Beer Wholesalers Association “Life Service Award” in 1989
  • Christian Brothers High School Hall of Fame in 1990
  • UNICO National Americanism Award in 1991
  • Member UNICO Memphis Chapter
  • Notre Dame Monogram Club Member of the year in 1992
  • National Football Foundation Unsung Hero Award in 1997
  • Recipient of the Bud Dudley Liberty Bowl Executive Award in 1998
  • 2006 Notre Dame Club of Memphis Lifetime Achievement Award