Josephine Reconnects With Former Student, Tony La Russa

A casual conversation between two Brookdale Tuskawilla residents sparked an unexpected Wish of a Lifetime. Shortly after moving to Brookdale, Josephine, 95, befriended a man named Charlie. Charlie is an avid baseball fan who collects baseball cards. One day, Charlie showed Josephine his collection and one of the cards stuck out for Josephine. It was then that she had the surprising realization that one of her previous students, Tony La Russa, had become a famous baseball player and manager.

Josephine’s grandparents came to the United States from Cuba. They worked at cigar factories in Ybor City, Florida, a historically Spanish Italian city where Josephine would grow up. As an adult, Josephine worked as an assistant to the kindergarten teacher at Cuscaden Park Baptist. Tony La Russa was a student of Josephine’s during this time, and the two would often play baseball together after school while Tony’s mother worked. During the summer Josephine worked at the local Boys Club, and remembers playing with Tony in the game room.

Although Josephine has Dementia today, she has a crystal clear memory of bringing Tony and his bat to the park after school to play baseball. When Charlie heard about Josephine’s history with Tony La Russa, he gave Josephine his Tony La Russa baseball card. Today, she carries her Tony La Russa baseball card with her everywhere so she can share her story with those around her.

Josephine is very proud that Tony was able to become a successful, educated professional, and loves to talk about her memories of Tony. Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale were excited for Tony La Russa and Josephine to reunite via a phone call on March 15, 2016. The two shared memories and reminisced together. Tony also gave Josephine an autographed photo and book commemorating his second World Series win and induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. According to Brookdale Tuskawilla’s Resident Programs Coordinator, Deborah Loe, Josephine “has marveled several times since as to what a blessing it has been to learn that the young boy she mentored in Ybor City so many years ago was able to realize his childhood dream!”

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April 20, 2016