Joe Satriano honors late wife through scholarship foundation

Cancer walk set for Oceanside High School on June 8


Oceanside resident Joe Satriano has devoted his life to honoring the memory of his wife, Susan, who lost her 13-year-long fight against breast cancer in 2005.

While paying tribute to her, Joe has helped hundreds of students through the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which will hold a Walk of Lights cancer fundraiser at Oceanside High School on Saturday, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The event, which was rescheduled from Oct. 14 because of bad weather, last took place at the high school in 2011, when Satriano was inspired to create it by the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The Foundation has held a walk or a Beatles tribute concert by the band Strawberry Fields every year since 2011.

The couple had been married for 29 years when Susan died at age 53, despite having been in remission for five years.

Starting in 2006, six months after her death, Satriano used the newly created foundation to award $1,000 scholarships to four graduating Oceanside High School seniors. The lone requirement was that the recipient have a parent who had died of cancer or who was being treated for it.

Both Joe and Susan were high school math teachers, Joe in the Roslyn school district and Sue in Bushwick. Joe had been teaching for 25 years when his wife was diagnosed, and he retired four years early so he could spend more time with her. Since then he has channeled his passion for education and his empathy for students into the foundation.

“They’re so appreciative of what I do,” Satriano said of the parents whose children are awarded the scholarships. “It’s almost like they’re putting me on this pedestal, which I don’t deserve, but they love the fact that I took the negative and made a positive out of it, and then also they love the fact that their kids are getting recognized.”

The foundation has received support from 70 school districts on Long Island as well as districts in 27 other states, which has allowed it to give out more than $1 million in scholarships to more than 3,200 students across. He presented 201 scholarships last year, and spoke at schools in Florida, Texas, Montana and California.

Those who are interested in taking part in this weekend’s walk are encouraged to register in advance. For a $25 donation, pre-registered participants will receive a printed luminaria bag representing someone who has or has died from cancer, and a foundation T-shirt. For those who register on the day of the walk, handwritten bags will be provided. The bags will illuminate the track, creating a poignant scene as dusk falls.

“The joy that I get out of it is to see these kids not stop, but they keep going,” Satriano said. “That’s heroic. They try to throw it back on me, but the truth is that the heroes in this operation are the kids. They’re young and they have their whole life ahead of them, and they can do anything they want, and they choose to do something great for society.”

One of the event’s highlights is the ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by the lighting of the luminarias. Satriano described the moment as deeply moving, with the flickering candles serving as beacons of hope and remembrance. Beyond the walk itself, the event promises to be a community celebration, with food, music and raffles featuring attractive prizes.

“I find it hard to take credit for something that I think is just the right thing to do,” Satriano said. “I always love helping kids. And that’s what this is really about, and the parents are just so appreciative of what I do.”

Satriano has also written two books dedicated to his wife, with all of the proceeds benefiting the foundation. In the first, “In Sickness and In Health: A Memoir of Love,” written under the pen name J.S. Russo and self-published in 2009, he shared his journey with his wife as she battled cancer. His upcoming book, “After Math: an unplanned journey” continues the story, detailing how Joe and his two sons, Matt, 40 and Justin, 35, navigated life after she died.

Satriano expressed hope that the new book would be out by Christmas. “It’s taken seven or eight years, but it’s been a labor of love,” he said, “including pictures in every chapter to help readers connect with our story.”

As the foundation approaches its 20th anniversary, he hinted at possibly reviving the highly successful Beatles tribute concerts by Strawberry Fields, which has played seven benefit fundraisers for the Susan Satriano Foundation, most recently at the Bellmore-Merrick School District in 2022, and last at Oceanside High in 2013. The concerts, which raised more than $120,000, were a highlight for many.

“People have been clamoring for another Beatles concert,” Satriano said. “It might just happen for our 20th year.”

Saturday’s walk promises to be a night of unity, remembrance and hope, as well as a testament to how one man’s love and dedication can touch countless lives.

“At the chats that I have with the kids, my kids become a vital part of what I say to them,” Satriano said of the scholarship winners. “That was the impetus for me to start the foundation and target those types of kids, because Sue and I saw what it did to our own boys, to watch their mom’s 13-year demise, and they had no help. There was no one out there to talk to them other than us.”