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    Joe Pirone, Gone at Age 64

    AUBURN, Wash. (January 11, 2013) – Joe Pirone, one of the most recognized and well-loved figures in Washington horse racing and breeding, died Thursday after a brief illness.  Mr. Pirone was 64 years old.

    Originally from Albany, New York, Joe began his career in Washington racing in the 1970s as a groom in the Wayne Branch barn at Longacres.  During his experience at the Renton, Washington track, he worked on the starting gate for the illustrious Art McCready (who eventually hired Joe to assist with the annual WTBOA horse sales) and met and married his wife, trainer Mary (Dufala) Pirone. 

    Joe joined the staff of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association full-time in 1986.  While his last official title was Advertising Sales & Administrative Executive, anyone in the industry could tell you that Joe was the all-important cog in the wheel of every special project, every summer and winter-mixed sale, every event.  Joe was the liaison between the horsemen and breeders, understanding all aspects of the industry clearly. He was the front office person – the face of the Breeders – welcoming new folks and old friends alike, with his customary broad smile and a compassion that made visitors feel at once at ease.  Joe was the behind-the-scenes guy, intuitively knowing when and where his assistance was most needed.  Joe often enlisted the help of his sons, Kenny & Paul, who were fixtures at the WTBOA offices & sales and part of the extended family.

    Joe is survived by his wife Mary, two sons, a daughter, grandchildren and an extended family that includes all who knew, loved and respected him throughout Washington’s Thoroughbred racing industry and beyond.  His passing leaves a void that will not be filled.

    A Rosary is planned Monday, January 14 at 7pm at the Weeks Funeral Home in Buckley, followed Tuesday by a Funeral Mass at 11am at Holy Cross in Tacoma. Both are open to everyone who would like to attend.

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