Joseph Richard Polello

August 20, 1926April 2, 2018
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Joseph Richard Polello

8/20/1926 – 4/2/2018

Joe Polello once said, “Every story has a beginning and every story has an ending; it’s the time in between that makes it all worthwhile.” Joe’s story began on August 20, 1926 in Spokane Washington as Giuseppe R. Polello to parents Mr. Frank and Mrs. Myrtle Polello.

When Joe was very young, his parents moved to Omaha, Nebraska. After the divorce of Joe’s parents, his grandparents brought Joe back to Spokane where they adopted and raised him. As a young boy, Joe was an altar boy at St. Aloysius and at seven years old he tap-danced on the corner of Riverside and Bernard for money. He graduated from West Valley High School in 1944 and joined the Marine Corps during World War II. Joe went overseas with the 6th Marine Division. He was wounded in action on June 1, 1945 in Okinawa and was awarded the Purple Heart.

After Okinawa, he was sent to Tsingtao, China with the 3rd Marine Brigade to accept the Japanese surrender to repatriate the troops back to Japan. While in China, Joe was asked to be one of the 6 Marine Honor Guard to be involved in the Pontiff High Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral when Bishop Thomas Tien was elevated as the first Catholic Cardinal in the history of China (“Excellency Monsignor Thomas Tien Apostolic Vicar Tsingtao”).

In 1946, Joe returned home to Spokane. He married Betty Jean Smith on February 22, 1948 and they had a Marine Corps wedding in Spokane Valley. Together they had four children: Julie J. Polello Biggs (San Diego, Ca.), Kelly K. Polello (Spokane, WA), Scott S. Polello (Spokane, WA.) and Nora N. Polello Garrett (Spokane, WA). His grandchildren include: Lori Friend, Josh Biggs, Luke Polello, Pat Garrett, and Holly Lundberg. And his great-grandchildren: Elizabeth Friend, Natalie Biggs, Emma Lundberg, Parker Garrett, Ethan Biggs, Hailey Lundberg and Harper Lundberg. (Betty passed away on October 16th 1980).

He joined the staff of the Navy Depot in 1947, where he played on the Navy basketball team and won the Northwest Championship for two years in a row and went to National Finals. During this time, Joe also obtained his pilot license and did a lot of flying, attending the Mamer-Shreck Flight School at Felts Field. The Depot was closed and Joe joined the staff of the Veteran’s Hospital in the Dietary Division until he received orders from the Marine Corps to return to active duty during the Korean Conflict.

Upon his return to Spokane, Joe went from the Veteran’s Hospital to Fairchild Air Force Base, where he worked as a Civil Supervisor. While at Fairchild, his presence was requested to join the 84th Fighter Squadron at Geiger Field in a Logistic Support Role, where he received commendation from the Air Force for having the finest division they had ever seen. Joe left Geiger Field and returned to Fairchild. After 20 years of service in 1970 he “retired”.

After Fairchild, Joe went on the “Arctic Safari”, a wildlife movie filmed by Gordon Eastman (Walt Disney’s lead chief wildlife photographer) Productions touring Canada. Joe took the show on the road as the lead man. He toured Canada showing the movie over 140 times, often going through crazy conditions to make it to the next town; there were times when he couldn’t even see the road. He left that job and in 1971, Joe joined the staff at Spokane Regional Health District as an Environmental Health Field Inspector where he worked for 34 years. When asked how he like working for the SRHD, Joe would reply “Best job I ever had”, which is what was imprinted on his retirement gift.

While working with the Spokane Regional Health District, Joe was also involved in several other activities. He was a key personnel in many local sport events: Hockey (Spokane Flyers, Spokane Jets and Spokane Comets); he spent many seasons with the Spokane Indians Ballpark where he met and befriended Tommy Lasorda who was here with the Los Angeles Dodgers AAA Farm Club in Spokane. He was in charge of security for the Auto Races for over 30 years; Joe spent 32 successive seasons with the Shriners coordinating the Ice Capades; he was the ticket and office manager for the Spokane Shockers, a Semi-Pro football team that played at Joe Albi Stadium; and he spent 51 consecutive seasons with the Spokane Interstate Fair, from which he retired in 2008 as the Superintendent of Public Relations (known as “The Voice of the Interstate Fair”). His staff was commissioned in 1974 to handle all the entertainment tickets for six months for the Expo 74 World Fair (during which time they grossed over 8 million in ticket sales). Joe was co-owner and manager of Entertainment Service Agency, and after the World’s Fair they were awarded the contract for the ushering service for all of the Spokane facilities from the City of Spokane for 8 more years. He was also part of M & M Ticket Company, and they handled all the tickets for events at the Coliseum. Joe’s office wall was adorned with countless photographs of famous television, sports and radio celebrities that Joe had come across throughout the years.

After more than 60 years of combined employment in 2005, a Dinner/Dance was held in Joe’s honor at Gonzaga University, the Knights of Columbus Hall. More than 200 people were in attendance for his Hawaiian Luau.

Joe has been known around Spokane as “Joe Christmas”. He lived in the same house since 1948, and every year he decorates his house to rival Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole! Although he adores Christmas he also loves his time in the sun. Joe had a summer home where he spent 14 years at Granite Point Park Resort on Loon Lake and thoroughly enjoyed his Kokanee fishing and time with family and friends. October 2, 1982, Joe married Barbara Cameron Mackie. People who influenced Joe Polello were Father Flannigan of Boys Town, Reverend Billy Graham and Tommy Lasorda of the LA Dodgers. Joe’s affiliations include Boys Town; the El Katif Shrine and Shrine’s Hospital; he was a lifelong member of the Scottish Rite of Spokane; he was the past President of the American Italian Club of Spokane; he was a lifelong member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; and he is an active member of the Marine Corps League, Spokane Chapter. The Marine Corps was an active part of his life throughout his life, not just during his time of active service.

Joe had a full life. Along with all of his other activities, Joe also played the trombone in a local dance band called The King’s Men. As a golfer, he joined the professional golfers association at Indian Canyon Golf Course and caddied for many professional golfers.

Joe always said to expect respect, you must show respect for others. One of his greatest joys in life was meeting people, trying to leave lasting impressions on them. Of all the activities of his life, his first priority was always his family. As Joe stated earlier, every story has a beginning and every story has an ending. He passed away on April 2, 2018 and his story has ended. Services will be held at Hazen and Jaeger Valley Funeral Home, 1306 N. Pines Rd. Spokane Valley, WA on Sat. April 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm, with viewing Friday, April 13, 2018 from 1 to 5. Private Marine Corps burial at Pines Cemetery. For further information please visit


  • Scott Polello
  • Kelly Polello
  • Art Biggs
  • Joshua Biggs
  • Luke Polello
  • Patrick Garrett


  • Visitation Friday, April 13, 2018
  • Visitation Friday, April 13, 2018
  • Funeral Service Saturday, April 14, 2018
  • Funeral Service Saturday, April 14, 2018

Joseph Richard Polello

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Mark Henderson

April 10, 2018

My family wishes to pass on our condolences and prayers to all of Joe's family and multitude of friends/loved ones. There are so many wonderful stories that this great man brought to this world during his walk amongst us all; always a bright light and shining example of what a "good guy" truly is. I crossed paths with Joe many times during his tenure with Spokane County as another County employee. And certainly purchased tickets from him often at the old Coliseum and Indians ball park. The most cherished and special times were during numerous hot summers at Spokane Raceway Park working security primarily for all his gate ticket sellers. { How he handled Orville M. was quite notable, too.} As such, there were numerous instances of Joe just sitting and sharing multitudes of stories about his life and experiences. What a treat! Every once in a while he even repeated a previously told story, but it was just as special and unique as on the original occasion. Always smiling and positive. Watching how he interacted with his wife, grandchildren, and anyone else, stranger or friend, was always a learning experience about being truly interested in 'you'. And also about how to gain Respect.

Christmas season was always especially blessed when we drove our children, then grandchildren, and other relatives/friends by the "LIT UP" Polello estate just north of Trent. What a display of love for the season, and the community. In more recent years other places in the area seemed to catch the bug to do likewise, but Joe's was first and foremost before it became popular elsewhere. I particularly enjoyed driving by in later years after Christmas was over and seeing Joe supervising his "youngster" crew taking down the display until next season.

Someone should write a book about Joe's life. It would be a best seller, but would probably need to be a series since even hundreds of pages would never be able to cover so much interesting history.

Goodbye Joe and God Bless you.

Janis Goings (Maggard)

April 8, 2018

Growing up friends with Julie, we spent many many good times with the Polello’s. I’m so sorry for your loss.