Carmine DeCianni, the longtime youth sports referee battling kidney failure, died of an apparent heart attack Sunday morning.
“It’s a loss to the whole community,” said Robb Mackett, an assigner with the Greater Naples Officials Association. “It’s a sad day.”
Kidney failure plagued DeCianni, 57, for three years, requiring nightly dialysis. His courage as he battled kidney disease and hoped for a transplant were profiled in the Naples Daily News in September.
It was still an unexpected death, said Mackett, who had a drink and watched football with the longtime official less than 24 hours earlier.
DeCianni was on the road away from the nightly dialysis machine after a girls softball coach introduced him to the chief of the kidney transplant program at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Since summer DeCianni has spent time working with doctors to find the best match and prepare for a transplant. DeCianni’s cousin Joseph Livorsi in New York City was picked as a living organ donor.
“His cousin was going up to (Washington, D.C.) sometime next week,” Mackett said. “Carmine was hopeful the transplant would get done in 2018, maybe in March or April. But unfortunately, his health kept declining.”
Despite failing kidneys, DeCianni never let his health trouble his officiating, on the football field or the baseball diamond.
“He never made excuses,” Mackett said. “He never played it up. He just continued to do officiating. We’re in an era where you can’t find people to officiate, but this guy loved it and embraced it. His favorite time was when he was around the kids.”
DeCianni had put many years into officiating — 18 years of Little League baseball and softball, in addition to high school baseball and 14 years of high school football.
“He’s spanned three generations of my family,” said Billy Sparacio, coach of the First Baptist Academy football team. “My son was a catcher and just moved to college. He remembers him as a good guy with a kind word. My dad would always seem to end up talking to him at the sidelines. Two old Italian dudes talking about the Yankees or whatever.”
Coaches liked to see DeCianni on the field as much as the man loved officiating, said Bill Kramer, Naples High School football coach.
“I was always happy if I saw him on the crew,” he said. “He always loved the sport. He had fun officiating, and he never seemed stressed. I know he’ll be missed. He was liked and brought light-heartedness. That’s huge, to be an official and not be stressed by it.”
DeCianni is survived by his wife, Patricia. The two have no children.
“The kids he officiated are his children,” Mackett said.