Vincent Rosario Tocci (USAF, Ret.) died at his home in Falls Church, Va., on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. His 95-year life included a 30-year military career that saw service in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam; another decade of award-winning success as head of communications for the American Chemical Society; and two more decades suffused with the joy of teaching at American University and tutoring hundreds of immigrants and high school drop-outs striving to attain the American dream. Vince was adored for his generosity, cheerful humor, intellect, and delight in helping others to succeed. His passions included singing, the arts, sports, lively conversation, and all things Italian, from cuisine to culture to history. Above all, he was devoted to his Catholic faith, his wife Margaret, and to his extended family; any time they gathered he was the bright, fun-loving center radiating happiness.
Born in Carnegie, Pa., and raised in the Pittsburgh suburbs during the Depression, he began attending Duquesne University at the young age of 16, even before finishing high school. In 1943, as World War II gripped the U.S., he carried a load of 18 credits and worked on campus to pay off his tuition (then a whopping $9/credit). In support of Duquesne athletics, he dressed as the “Little Duke” mascot in glamorous top hat and tails and held pep rallies that noisily spilled off the campus. Once, he led 2,000 students through the downtown in an hours-long, traffic-snarling conga line, nearly getting himself suspended. Another outdoor show he organized featured Mel Torme and a combo from Duquesne’s famous school of music. He proudly joined Alpha Phi Delta, a fraternity that celebrated Italian-Americans at a time when other groups excluded them.
Drafted at 18 into the infantry, he trained as a medic and worked nearly until the war’s end on the hospital ship “Dogwood” in the Pacific. His final stop before returning home was an Army post near Vancouver, where in his spare time he joined a band that honed his proficiency in the jazz idiom and enabled him to sing with and learn from another young G.I., trumpeter Doc Severinson. The band’s popular gigs led to a slot on KOMO radio and other recruiting shows.
Post-war in 1946, Vince returned to Duquesne on the G.I. Bill and ROTC programs and secured his Bachelor’s in biology in 1949. He also won the love of co-ed Anne McCarthy, and married her before being called back to active duty for the Korean War. That propelled him into the life of a US Air Force officer, and took him across the country and around the world. Assignments included Japan (in support of the “Black Sheep” bomber squadron), Vietnam (where he was one of the media briefers at the contentious “Five O’clock Follies” daily media scrums), and a life-changing posting to Italy.
Somehow he found time to complete his Master’s in Education and work towards a Ph.D., even as he engaged in an endless stream of family, community, charitable and Catholic outreach activities: founding several community theaters, bowling, horseback riding, directing musicals and athletic competitions, fundraising for a Catholic orphanage and medical clinic in Vietnam, establishing new chapters of the Holy Name Society.
By this time, he and Anne had six children, so he also indulged his love of athletics (and supplemented his meager captain’s salary) by officiating high-school sports. Anne died unexpectedly in 1969, but he drew comfort from his children, work and faith. A few years later the Air Force assigned him to NATO in Naples, Italy, where he met the brilliant Margaret (nee Sweeney) Moore, a young American widow with two daughters of her own who was the chapel’s music director when he was parish council president. Vince and Margaret married in 1976, and together headed to his final posting, at NORAD Hq. in Colorado Springs.
Retiring at the rank of Lt. Col. in 1979, he launched into a new life in Washington DC as director of public communications for The American Chemical Society, the largest scientific society in the free world. At ACS he put together a top-notch team to improve public understanding of science. They produced radio, television, print and film programming that won two Silver Anvil awards from the Public Relations Society of America, three Thoth Awards, two International Mercury Awards, and dozens more honors. In a world where spin dominated, his was always the rational and grounded voice that put public interest above all else. Capping his time in p.r., Vince was inducted into the PRSA Hall of Fame for the Washington DC chapter.
Vince next brought his experience, energy and creativity to The American University in Washington DC, as adjunct professor of communication for 14 years. That wasn’t quite enough for him, so he also taught immigrants and high school drop-outs as an unpaid volunteer at the Alexandria Adult Learning Center for 21 years, introducing many innovations to adult teaching and learning. Many of those students are highly successful today, thanks to his team-teaching colleague and director of the center, the late Jan Nell Bryant.
He remained active into his 10th decade, still swimming and doing water aerobics, cooking meals at Christ House in Alexandria, meeting with alumni from Duquesne and his APD fraternity brothers, reading voraciously, exploring theology and living his faith. In 2019, he humbly received Duquesne’s Presidential Medal for Exemplary Service to his Country.
Vince leaves behind an enduring legacy of service to others, and a sorrowing family. Survivors include his wife Margaret, and seven children: Vincent Tocci Jr. (m. Elvira), Lisa Tocci (Les Brindley), William Tocci Sr. (Sandra Collins), David Tocci, Christina Tocci (Peter Flynn), Alexandra “Aly” Moore and M. Dana Moore. A daughter, Regina Tocci, predeceased him. Also, 13 grandchildren (Nicholas and Anthony Tocci, William Tocci Jr., Heather Tocci, Joshua, Jeremy, Seth and Caleb Flynn, Wesley and Connor Swank, Esme and Grace Hough and Jacob Moore) and two great-grandchildren (Liam and Isabella Tocci), plus numerous cousins, nephews and nieces in whom he had great pride and close rapport.
Family and friends are invited for a visitation at 1 p.m. on Saturday 11 December at Everly Funeral Home in Falls Church, VA, with a memorial service beginning at 2 p.m., followed immediately by a reception. Private burial will be scheduled later at Arlington Cemetery. Instead of flowers, trees, plants or other gifts, the family asks that you have a Mass said at any Catholic Church on Vince’s behalf, or consider making a memorial donation in his name to Catholic Charities of Arlington, www.ccda.net or Giving (ccda.net).
Video of the service can be seen at https://view.oneroomstreaming.com/authorise.php?k=1638908010152482.
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