By Mary Kate Dubuss
Metro West Daily News
Monday, September 20, 2004
WESTBOROUGH — Worcester Academy paid tribute to a charismatic alumnus with a memorial service for 20-year-old Clark University student Joseph Venincasa yesterday.
In honor of Venincasa’s passion for music, the memorial service held in the academy’s theater included songs by his favorite artist — Stevie Nicks — and music and readings by Worcester Academy faculty.
Westborough resident Venincasa had been missing since Sept. 9 and was discovered Sept. 15 in his car on an abandoned Worcester road. Police are still awaiting a toxicology report, but have ruled his death a diabetic seizure.
About 15 friends made sure Venincasa’s Stevie Nicks obsession was not overlooked. They wore navy blue headbands the way Venincasa had done in homage to Nicks.
Three Nicks ballads, “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You,” “After the Glitter Fades,” and “Good Bye Baby,” were all played during the hourlong service.
“Joey always wore a Stevie Nicks blue headband,” said friend and classmate Jasleen Anand of Shrewsbury. She had known Venincasa since they both were 5. “He was a big fan.”
“It caused a lot of fights, having to listen to Stevie Nicks all the time,” said Beth O’Neil of Worcester.
“He was a great friend. We had a lot of adventures. I’ll miss singing to ’80’s music with him a lot,” said friend and classmate Kate O’Brien, of Shrewsbury.
After the service, more than 300 friends and family surrounded Venincasa’s immediate family in front of Worcester Academy’s Lewis J. Warner Theatre, where Venincasa had performed in plays as a student.
Symbolizing the close of the service, the family released monarch butterflies into the air.
“The butterflies were special. It was meaningful, nice to see,” said friend John Flaminio, of Worcester.
Flaminio said he remembered his friend as “a bubbly person. He was very nice, always in a good mood. Joey was a person who would be there for you.”
“Even if you hadn’t talked to Joey in a long time, he was always willing,” to catch up, O’Neil said.
Flaminio also remembered Venincasa as a stellar musician.
Along with a penchant for Stevie Nicks and Whitney Houston, Venincasa enjoyed punk-rock and played the heavier stuff with his band, Tyger.
The academy’s gymnasium was turned into a reception hall with a photo collage and pastel portrait of Venincasa. The collage included photos of his life from childhood to formal dances to live guitar performances.
A picture of Venincasa on the beach as a child was framed by messages from friends and family such as, “Thanks for rockin’ out in my studio,” “you shaped my world and made me the person I am today,” and “Love you always – Nana and Papa.”
“We hung out every day, went to lots of shows, Joey was such a great kid,” said Ben Karr of Worcester.
Venincasa’s friends, mostly college students, flew in from around the country for the memorial service.
“My sister evacuated New Orleans for the hurricane and then flew from Texas for this,” said Bridgette Kane.
Others flew from Canada and Washington.
His friends have set up a shrine on Beaver Brook Parkway, where Venincasa was found dead in his 1991 blue Mercury Sable on Sept. 15.
“We go there every day,” O’Neil said. In memory, the group has left Diet Coke, Venincasa’s favorite drink. They have spent so much time there, they even ordered pizza to the rural, unpaved road.
“Since he was diabetic, he would drink five Cokes a day,” O’Neil said.
Friends remember him bringing bottles of Diet Coke everywhere he went.
“He even used to drink my dad’s,” O’Neil said.