The community spirit of Salem County shone brightly at the opening of the Gino Mistichelli Field at Oldmans Township School on July 11.
Before a standing-room only crowd of nearly 100 guests, SCC Director of Athletics Bob Bunnell pointed out that naming a field for someone bestows the highest honor. In this case, naming the soccer field in Mistichelli’s honor could not be more fitting. “Gino’s spirit will grace the field forever and will be a constant reminder of the place that he held in the community,” said Bunnell.
The new home of Salem Community College Mighty Oaks’ men’s and women’s soccer honors the late businessman and youth soccer coach who died unexpectedly two years ago.
During the ceremony, Gino was fondly remembered as the soul of the community and a dedicated family man, an iconic figure with an infectious personality.
“I know he’s watching over us and would be so incredibly humbled by this honor,” said Maria Calabrese, the President of the Oldmans Township School Board of Education.
Wife Christine, who was married to Gino for over 20 years, was joined by their three children (Olivia, Dante and Emma Grace), as well as other family members, including Gino’s sister, Lea Mistichelli-Quaranta, from Teramo, Italy. Christine recalls her late husband, who owned and operated The Country Store, had a tireless work ethic. Although already working six days a week, Gino eagerly jumped at the opportunity to help coach Dante’s soccer team.
Christine, an SCC graduate who teaches at Paul W. Carleton School, shared that Gino’s coaching career started after he and Dante intently watched the World Cup soccer competition in 2014. She recalled then 8-year-old Dante saying, “’I want to play soccer, Dad.’ Our soccer journey began and Gino’s second career, as a soccer volunteer, was initiated,” said Christine, who noted that Gino became certified as an assistant coach for Dante’s team. Tony Messina, the team’s coach, attended the ceremony along with many other family friends.
“Gino recognized the importance of a social outlet for young people,” Christine continued. “The positive impact of fostering relationships and that the cornerstone of success is teamwork.
“It gave Gino great joy and fulfillment to support the Penns Grove/Carneys Point/Pedricktown soccer club as a volunteer, parent and coach,” Christine concluded. “No matter how tired he was or how many hours he worked the week prior to a game, he met every player with a smile and enthusiasm on Sunday afternoon.”
The celebration recognized Penns Grove VFW Post 8840 for donating a flagpole and American flag, and PSEG Nuclear for funding the new scoreboard. The College also thanked the Oldmans Township government and Oldmans Township School for their ongoing support to welcome the soccer program to its new home on Freed Road.
Recent SCC soccer players Patrick Oliveira and João Cubas attended the ceremony. Both from Brazil, Patrick and João have spoken with Oldmans Township School students about their lives in South America. Patrick will continue his collegiate soccer career at King’s University in Canada and João will compete for Neumann University in Aston, Pa.
Community service is an essential component of SCC Mighty Oaks Athletics, which Bunnell has led since the program’s rebirth in 2018. For example, over the past year, student-athletes and coaches have held clinics, and frequently attended Oldmans Township School activities and visited classes.
Matt Murray is the SCC soccer consultant and former head coach of the men’s team. “It’s a perfect partnership,” he said of the Mighty Oaks’ home at Oldmans Township School. “We get our own space for matches and training. Oldmans’ students gain access to multicultural experiences that previously were not available, while Salem student-athletes gain that sense of community thousands of miles away from home."