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Lives Lost: An unassuming maestro of Sunday soundtracks

This undated photo provided by the family in May 2020 shows Joseph Policelli at the piano with his niece Stephanie Mayne. At funerals, he made the organ moan, and at weddings, it thundered in joy. On Christmas, bells twinkled; on Easter, trumpets blasted. He delivered victorious graduation marches and bellowing birthday celebrations, blaring the pipes and vibrating the pews every Sunday in between. He was unassuming, egoless and largely anonymous, but in the lives of generations of Catholics in communities around Massachusetts, Policelli played the soundtrack. He died from COVID-19 on April 27, 2020 at 71. (Family photo via AP)
This undated photo provided by the family in May 2020 shows Joseph Policelli at the piano with his niece Stephanie Mayne. At funerals, he made the organ moan, and at weddings, it thundered in joy. On Christmas, bells twinkled; on Easter, trumpets blasted. He delivered victorious graduation marches and bellowing birthday celebrations, blaring the pipes and vibrating the pews every Sunday in between. He was unassuming, egoless and largely anonymous, but in the lives of generations of Catholics in communities around Massachusetts, Policelli played the soundtrack. He died from COVID-19 on April 27, 2020 at 71. (Family photo via AP) (Policelli family)

At funerals, he made the organ moan, and at weddings, it thundered in joy. On Christmas, bells twinkled; on Easter, trumpets blasted. He delivered victorious graduation marches and bellowing birthday celebrations, blaring the pipes and vibrating the pews every Sunday in between.

He was unassuming, egoless and largely anonymous, but in the lives of generations of Catholics in communities around Massachusetts, Joseph Policelli played the soundtrack.

“Joe was music,” says the Rev. Richard Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Brighton, where Policelli was music director. “That was his life.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of stories remembering people who have died from coronavirus around the world.

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Policelli grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, his father a maintenance supervisor for Amtrak, his mother a substitute teacher who gave piano lessons on the baby grand in the living room of their split-level ranch. Policelli was the oldest of three children and his mother’s star student.

His early interest in music held and a childhood as an altar boy and Catholic school student gave way to a half-century career arranging, playing and teaching music and leading church choirs.