[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”221″][/media-credit]One of NASCAR’s true legends, Pocono Raceway track founder ‘Doc’ Mattioli, has passed away at the age of 86. While known as one of the most successful track owners and one of the true characters in the sport, ‘Doc’ will be most remembered for the love story that he lived.
Dr. Joseph Mattioli had many loves in his life, from stock car racing to serving his country and helping others in need. But the most important loves in his life were his wife of 63 years, Dr. Rose, as well as his children and grandchildren.
‘Doc’ and Dr. Rose began their love story after meeting at Temple University, where Dr. Rose was working for the Registrar’s office at the time. Dr. Rose said that ‘Doc’ was “the freshest guy” she had ever met, always trying to get to the head of the line.
“He kept telling me he had a car, like that was a big deal,” Dr. Rose said of her future husband-to-be. “Little did I know that he would be the one that I would marry.”
Dr. Rose and ‘Doc’ actually ran away to Baltimore in 1948 to get married. They kept their marriage a secret until they came back home and had an actual wedding ceremony, which all “seems like just yesterday,” according to Dr. Rose.
The couple was destined to find each other, both living in the Philadelphia area. They also shared another common bond, that of being only children.
After their marriage, Dr. Rose set up her practice as a podiatrist while ‘Doc’ set up shop as a dentist. They then started a family, blessed with two daughters and a son.
Seeming to have it all, both Dr. Rose and ‘Doc’ worked hard at their thriving practices. But at the age of 35, ‘Doc’ experienced major burnout and confided to his wife that he needed to make a lifestyle change.
So, the couple set of to pursue the newest love in their lives, that of owning a race track.
“We were always curious about racing,” Dr. Rose said of herself and her husband. “We went to the races at Nazareth right after Sunday mass.”
“We were in our Sunday best, all dressed up,” Dr. Rose continued. “We had no idea that the dirt would be flying everywhere and all over us.”
“The children were crying,” Dr. Rose continued. “And I had to keep stuffing Kleenex in their ears to block out all of the noise of the engines racing around the track.”
In spite of that inauspicious introduction to racing, ‘Doc’ and Dr. Rose continued their investigation of track ownership, learning that there was one under construction in Long Pond, PA.
They flew over the track, fell in love, and the rest, as they say, was history. The couple started off with USAC races and then moved into NASCAR, which was just expanding into the region from its southern roots.
The first NASCAR race at the Mattioli’s track was won by Hall of Famer Richard Petty. The Mattiolis then met the father of NASCAR, Bill France Sr., who took them both under his wing and taught them the business.
“More and more people started to come to the track,” Dr. Rose said. “Children and their families would come to see the races.”
‘Doc’ not only passionately loved his wife and his successful Pocono Raceway, but he also adored his extended family. Mattioli leaves behind his daughters Louie and Michele, son Joseph Mattioli III, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all of whom have been present with him in running the family business in one way or another.
“His loss has left with each of us an unbearable sadness, which we’ll bear with us for the rest of our lives,” his family shared in a statement released on his death. “He died loved, respected, and admired.”
In addition to his family, Doc’s other loves included serving his country, helping others and aiding the planet. Mattioli served his country during World War II as a Navy medic stationed in the Pacific.
‘Doc’ also loved helping others, participating in a variety of charities, from the Red Cross to local hospitals, schools and nonprofits. In 2009, Mattioli received the Philanthropic Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
‘Doc’ was also a visionary when it came to the environment, spearheading a solar energy project that has paid dividends not only for the race track but also for the local community.
Mattioli’s family summed up the essence of the love story lived by ‘Doc’ Mattioli best.
“He leaves not only his family, but also everyone he’s ever met with an insatiable desire to take life by the horns,” said Mattioli’s family. “He always lived life on his own terms.”
“He did it his way.”