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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia (CBS)—His eyes were going by then, a degenerative vision problem called retinitis pigmentosa was burrowing through Joe Brown’s vision and shooting holes through his memories that early-August afternoon in 2007.
But “Eagle Joe” was still able to catch one lasting glimpse of the Eagles training complex at Lehigh University, and it was enough to force a tear from those strained eyes. The trip was a parting gift Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie, coach Andy Reid and Eagles’ PR head Derek Boyko were able to give the life-long Eagles’ fan who never missed a training camp in over 30 years.
On Tuesday, the Eagles announced their beloved season-ticket holder and long-time training camp fixture, Eagle Joe, died at the age of 62.
“Training camp will not be the same without Eagle Joe,” Reid said in a team-released statement. “He was a fixture at our practices every summer for many, many years. He knew every player on the roster, their 40 time, their college and their statistics, it seemed. He bled green. And even though he was struggling with various illnesses in recent years, he still managed to travel to Lehigh a few times every camp. He always had a kind word of encouragement to each of our players and coaches. He never asked for anything and never expected anything, he just wanted to be around his Eagles family. We will certainly miss Joe and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends in their time of loss.”
Five years ago, the Eagles sent a limousine to pick Joe up from his home in Exton, Chester County. As the car reached the top of the long, sloping Bethlehem hills, Brown said to me, there doing a story for the Philadelphia Daily News, “I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place again.”
Joe was 57 at the time and was attending his 33rd straight Eagles’ training camp. In June 2007, Brown contacted Boyko, and was so desperate to see his Birds practice one last time, he offered to do everything from being a ball boy, to working security. Anything to get down to the field again and see his Birds practice again.
Brown, a retired employee of ACME, began going to Eagles’ training camp in 1975, when the Birds practiced at Widener under Mike McCormack.
“That first time there, something just clicked,” Brown told me. “It was one of the best times I ever had in my life in so many years. I was hooked. I was enthralled by the whole thing.”
The Eagles honored their devoted fan by saying goodbye one last time today.