Joseph J. Gushue, Retired Nba Referee

Posted: November 14, 1996

Joseph J. Gushue, who rose from refereeing pickup games at city playgrounds and Wildwood summer leagues to become one of the most respected officials in the National Basketball Association, died Tuesday. He was 64 and lived in Torresdale.

Born and raised in Port Richmond, Gushue also was a retired member of Carpenter's Union Local 1856. Too small to make the team at Northeast Catholic High School, Gushue found an outlet for his love of the game by refereeing games at recreation and community centers and neighborhood playgrounds.

``I remember one time he made $2 for working two games in a Salvation Army league,'' said his wife of 40 years, Anna Mae. ``He loved the game more than he needed the couple of bucks, but the bucks came in handy.''

The few extra bucks helped Gushue rent a place for his family in Wildwood, N.J., for the summer of 1961. During the week he worked as a carpenter and joined his family on weekends. He spent much of his time there refereeing in a college league ``for a few dollars and all the beer you could drink.''

It was at one of these games that Gushue caught the eye of Sid Borgia, an NBA official also on vacation. ``He liked Joe's style, the way he worked,'' said his wife.

Borgia liked it so much, he invited Gushue to an NBA referees' camp that September in New York.

It was the beginning of a long and distinguished career for the kid from Port Richmond who spent his teen-age summers playing hoops at Cohocsink Recreation Center, Cedar and Cambria streets.

``I lived right across the street,'' said Anna Mae. ``I'd see him playing out my back window and decide to go for a walk.''

That, too, was the beginning of a long and loving relationship.

With no guarantees of work his first year in the NBA, Gushue continued to work as a carpenter, officiating mostly on weekends. But once in a while, he'd get a game during the week.

``They'd call me on the phone and ask if I could get a hold of Joe to work a game that night,'' recalled his wife. ``I'd pack up the kids and go to where he was working and tell him he had a game that night in Baltimore, New York, places like that.''

Throughout his 23 years in the NBA (he retired in 1985), Gushue gained a reputation as an exceptional teacher. Younger refs looked foward to working with him for both the honor and experience.

``Joe was the epitome of a teacher in officiating,'' said Wally Rooney, a retired NBA ref who worked with Gushue. ``Unfortunately, we don't have that type of teacher in the profession today.''

``This is a sad time,'' added Rooney, ``but I'm just so happy to be able to say he was my friend and that he was a hell of a referee.''

He also is survived by a son, Michael; two daughters, Carol Ann Kovacs and Nancy Jelen; a brother; two sisters; and eight grandchildren.

Viewing will be 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Burns Funeral Home, 9708 Frankford Ave.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Katherine of Siena Church, Frankford Avenue and Primrose Road.

Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, 5201 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem.

LAVINIA STEVENSON Lavinia Stevenson, a ``true missionary'' who made certain there were lilies in the pulpit at Easter and poinsettias at Christmas, died Saturday. She was 92 and lived in South Philadelphia.

Stevenson, a retired seamstress, was a former block captain (1800 Latona street) and a longtime member of the Union Baptist Church, Fitzwater Street near 19th. ``She loved gardening and flowers,'' said her sister, Bernice Battiste. ``She always saw to it that there were lillies on the pulpit at Eastertime and poinsettias at Christmastime. She enjoyed doing that. She was a devoted church member. She loved working with the children.''

``I would call my sister a true missionary,'' she added. ``She went wherever she was needed. She always helped the underdog.''

Besides her sister, she is survived by a brother, Ruppert Nesmith, and nieces and nephews.

Viewing will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Union Baptist Church, followed by services at 6.

Burial will be Monday in Rolling Green Memorial Park, Routes 202 and 3, West Chester.

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