If there is any one man I could credit for keeping me out of trouble in high school, I'd have to say it was Lt. Colonel Joseph J. Ciampa. As a headstrong kid who liked to fight and spent a ton of time in the principal's office as a freshman, I needed the discipline junior ROTC provided for me. Ciampa ran Quincy High School's Air Force JROTC program and convinced me during an 8th grade tour of the school that I wanted to be involved. Little did I know when I first joined that I would end up being one of the highest ranking Quincy High School cadets in due time. Colonel Ciampa made that possible.
We called him Colonel and always gave him the utmost respect, and he saw our best and worst moments and still gave us the benefit of the doubt. He often told me stories about how he loved boxing in the Air Force because he'd get a nice steak served to him before every bout. He encouraged me to pursue writing and ushered me through the JROTC program to the point where I was able to attend the Air Force Academy upon graduation. With Sergeant Holland as his right hand man, Colonel Ciampa inspired us all to work hard and achieve whatever we desired. It was his leadership that led our school's JROTC program to the Honor Unit designation that allowed me to bypass a congressional appointment to the Academy. At our annual awards banquet, Ciampa arranged for a formal presentation of my acceptance certificate and wished me success, although initially he read the script wrong and said, "I wish Rich great sex at the Air Force Academy." He handled the gaffe with grace and humor, throwing his paperwork up in the air when someone alerted him to his mistaken utterance. The crowd roared with laughter.
Colonel Ciampa had such a gift for guiding teenagers like us to perform up to our potential. He took a small group of misfits and turned us into sharp little soldiers, and even if we didn't all go on to join the military, we never forgot the lessons he taught us. I never knew much about his life outside of the confines of the program, but it doesn't surprise me that he was also an extremely devoted and dedicated father, grandfather and family man.
I am very fortunate to be among those who can say I was once a student of Colonel Ciampa's, and I'm sure there are thousands of other students who feel the same. I only wish I kept in touch with him more over the years since graduation. I was very saddened to hear of his passing and would like to launch a formal campaign to honor him with an official memorial. Stay tuned to this site as plans for that effort come to fruition. Meanwhile, if you want to pay your respects you can visit Colonel Ciampa's online guestbook HERE.
Lt. Col. Joseph J. Ciampa Ret. formerly of 48 Snowhill St., Boston’s North End, died at home, surrounded by his family on Cape Cod. Joe transitioned on Jan. 7th afer a short battle with cancer. He is survived by his loving wife Mary of 57 years and five children, John, Donna, Michelle, Deena and Joe Jr., along with his fifteen grandchildren. He is also survived by brother John Ciampa of Coral Gables, FLA and sister Maria (Pidg) Ciampa of the North End.
Colonel Ciampa attended Northeastern University where he was a finalist in the 1955 Olympic Javelin Trials. He then went on to serve 21 years in the United States Air Force as a Master Navigator with the Strategic Air Command. In 1957 Col. Ciampa was the lead navigator in a mission refueling a B-52 that circumnavigated the globe nonstop, for the first time in history. He served several tours in Vietnam and, after retiring from the Air Force he received two Masters Degrees in Education. The Colonel taught Aerospace Science courses in the ROTC program at Quincy’s two high schools for 20 years. This “patriot” wore many hats as a teacher, mentor and coach to his children, grandchildren and many cadets that attended the Quincy and North Quincy ROTC programs. Thank you for your service and dedication to country & family!