TORONTO, Ohio — On Wednesday, the city of Toronto lost Joseph Karaffa, a man whose life’s work was to educate the residents of the Gem City.
Karaffa, who was born in 1925, began his career in education in 1952 as elementary school teacher. He became a principal in the Toronto school system, and eventually, the Red Knights Superintendent of Schools in 1976.
He served in that role until his retirement in 1985.
“And in every aspect of that career, his main focus was always what was best for the students in Toronto,” said Maureen Taggart, Toronto Schools superintendent.
Karaffa graduated from Toronto high school in 1942. Forty-eight years later in 1990, after becoming the first Toronto student to become the school system's superintendent, he became a member of the school’s first class of Distinguished Alumni.
“He would bring out the best in people, and the people of Toronto just had great respect for Joe Karaffa,” Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said. “He learned, or at least taught us that you get more out of people by treating them nice and showing them respect.”
One of the last things Karaffa did as superintendent was raise the funds needed to build what is now the Elementary school that carries his name.
“I just think that he was such a wonderful example and you would never know when you talk to him how important of a person he was,” Taggart said.
Karaffa, who is survived by his daughters Nancy and Susan and four grandchildren not only served his community, but his country as a medic in World War II.
“I thought he was very unselfish I thought that his prime motivation in his life was to do the right thing,” local dentist Glenn Swearingen said. “And fortunately for our community, he was involved with our educational process. He really excelled in that part.”
Karraffa was 94 years old.