Fresno professor Octavio Tocchio dedicated life to children

The Fresno BeeJanuary 1, 2014 

Octavio Tocchio

When Frank Cristando thinks back to the time he and Octavio Tocchio, his friend for almost 40 years, rang bells for the Salvation Army, he doesn't remember the money they collected. He remembers how Mr. Tocchio interacted with the kids who walked by.

"He made sure every kid got a piece of candy, whether they contributed or not," Cristando said. "He always was concerned about children. Whenever there was an opportunity to serve kids, he did."

Mr. Tocchio, named Octavio because he was the eighth child in his family, died Dec. 11 at the age of 91.

Asked about a memory that summed up Mr. Tocchio, Cristando pointed to their annual tradition for more than three decades of collecting donations for the Salvation Army.

Mr. Tocchio would buy candy if the Salvation Army couldn't afford any, Cristando said, to make sure every kid got one.

During the Veterans Day parade, Cristando and Mr. Tocchio would hand out flags to kids so they could wave them at passing veterans.

For most of his adult life, Mr. Tocchio helped kids in Fresno through his work with the Exchange Club of Fresno while teaching criminology at Fresno State. Hal Best, a dean and professor in the business department at Fresno State before he retired in 1992, said the club's major mission is to help abused children.

Best said Mr. Tocchio may have cared so much about the welfare of children because he came from a big family and had children of his own.

"He was very interested in the victims of crimes, especially children," Best said. "That brought him to work with the Exchange Club."

After graduating from high school in 1940 in Massachusetts, Mr. Tocchio worked in a shipyard, for a railroad and as a police officer.

While a working as a cop, he graduated cum laude from Suffolk University in Boston in just three years with a major and two minors.

After several stops on the faculties of other universities, he arrived at Fresno State — then Fresno State College — in 1959. He would remain in the criminology department for the next 32 years, rising to department chair and assistant dean.

His work in the classroom and with kids and police officers through the club was typical of a man who wanted to make Fresno better, Cristando said. For 12 years he served on Fresno County's Battered Child Committee and served on the Juvenile Justice Commission for two years.

"He is one member of society who will be sorely missed," Cristando said. "We will miss him because he did so much and was a community leader. It was like having another brother."

Octavio Tocchio

Born: April 25, 1922

Died: Dec. 11, 2013

Occupation: Retired, 32 years as Fresno State criminology professor

Survivors: Wife Marion; daughters Tama Gilbert and Maria Tocchio; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild

Services: 11 a.m. Jan. 10, St. Anthony of Padua, 5770 N. Maroa Ave. Fresno. Reception will be 12:30 p.m. Jan. 10, Cardinal Newman Hall at St. Paul Newman Center, 1572 E. Barstow Ave. Fresno.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279 or jrayburn@fresnobee.com.

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