Joseph Bartholomew Mucelli
Beloved soldier, teacher and friend - passed away on July 26, 2012, at home in peace in San Francisco. He was 76 and had battled leukemia.
Joe was born in 1936 in New York City to Dr. Joseph Mucelli of Rome and Tatiana Mikhailovskaya of Moscow and raised in their cabin in rural Putnam Valley, N.Y. He reminisced about an idyllic childhood spent in upstate New York among remarkable relatives and friends, and observing his father's medical practice in Manhattan.
After studying psychology and biology at New York University, he was commissioned into the Army as an infantry officer in 1957. He held command and staff assignments at Fort Ord, Calif., and Germany, before volunteering for duty in Vietnam in 1964. In a life-defining experience, Joe served in Lam Dong province, Republic of Vietnam, as a combat advisor from March 1965 through December 1968. For almost four years, he lived and fought with the Vietnamese and Montagnard inhabitants of the province in their struggle against communism. He wrote an account of one experience for the 2009 anthology "War Stories of the Infantry: Americans in Combat, 1918 to Today."
After retiring from the Army and following his final posting at the Presidio of San Francisco in 1977, Joe began a second career as an Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps instructor in 1979. Designing and implementing a program that was "of, by and for the kids," Joe-"Maj," as he was known affectionately to a generation of students-taught and mentored cadets at Mission, Wilson and Lowell High Schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. Countless former cadets will no doubt recall Maj's leadership and life lessons, as well as his passion for exposing city kids to the wonders of the natural world through ski trips to Tahoe, orienteering exercises in the Marin Headlands and daytrips to destinations as far away as Yosemite. Through his tireless efforts hundreds of his cadets went on to successful careers in national service and the private sector. Maj always found the time to mentor his students, encouraged them to apply to the best colleges and pursue their dreams, and served as a role model for virtues such as responsibility and integrity. He was their friend and advocate.
He also established and coached competitive youth shooting programs. Several of his teams competed at the national level, culminating in competition at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a national junior three-position sporter air rifle title in 1999. After retiring from Lowell in 1998, Joe continued his involvement in junior shooting sports, serving as the volunteer state Civilian Marksmanship Program junior program director until 2010. He was also a National Rifle Association life member and coach.
Joe was the Renaissance man. His interests included herpetology, travel, reading and writing, history, art, photography, food and wine, opera, hiking and bicycling. He had visited all 50 U.S. states and five continents. He contributed articles on crocodilians to specialized journals and supported impoverished students in the Philippines in the mid-1980s. A true soldier, outdoorsman, scholar and humanitarian, Joe will live on in the hearts of the many lives he touched in his rich life.
Major Mucelli's military awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star.
Joe is survived by his brother, Dr. Louis A. Mucelli of New York, nephew Alexander L. Mucelli of Connecticut, niece Tanya Coleman of Massachusetts, cousins on the East Coast, former wife of 25 years Carolyn Mucelli of San Francisco, friend Tannie Soo Hoo of San Francisco, and friends and former students across the nation. He had received the finest medical treatment from Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Hospice and Compassionate Community Care. Funeral services for him wre held on Aug. 4 at McAvoy O'Hara in San Francisco.
He will receive full military honors at the public service to be held on Oct. 26, 2 p.m., at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, Calif. - his final resting place, among his fellow soldiers.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 21, 2012