OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - A legendary figure in Ocean Springs is being remembered with great fondness and deep appreciation. Joe Cacibauda, the longtime Ocean Springs High School band director, better known to everyone simply as “Mr. Joe”, died Monday surrounded by family at his home.
He was a musician, a husband, father and friend. But to thousands of former students he was “that” teacher. You know, the one you remember. The one who somehow remembers you, even though you do the math and it doesn’t seem possible that he could remember every student. But he did.
Mr. Joe spent 43 years dedicated to teaching, with a majority of that time - 31 years - at Ocean Springs High School. He taught generations of musicians and even inspired some to follow in his footsteps, like Jay Twilbeck who teaches music at Magnolia Park Elementary.
“Joe is leaving a lot of people behind, a lot people who love him dearly. There’s no way to explain it,” Twilbeck said. “He got me two jobs. Joe had the ability to, without even trying, just attracted people to him. We would come before school, stay after school.”
And it was in those times, before and after school, that Mr. Joe taught more than just music and marching. He taught character, discipline, determination - life lessons that served students far beyond the walls of the band hall. So it was no surprise when he retired in 2015, the school announced that the brand new band hall would be named in his honor.
It was just the latest in a long list of accomplishments. Under Mr. Joe’s leadership, the school’s marching band and wind ensemble won numerous awards and national honors, consistently earned all-superior ratings at competition, and even performed for three presidents.
But he told WLOX News back then that his satisfaction never came from the trophies and awards.
“The real trophies are sitting out there in the chairs. The kids are the real trophies,” Cacibauda said in 2015.
Even today, students who never had Mr. Joe as a teacher know who he is. Monday, members of the Blue Grey Pride Marching Band posted a video playing the Greyhound fight song to encourage him and show his legacy in action.
“He had a true love for his kids and hoped that they learned more than just music, but that they learned to be productive citizens in society. And I think that’s something we all want to emulate,” said current OSHS Band Director Mohammad Schuman.
The musical tribute was just one of many messages sent to Mr. Joe in his final days. As word spread over the weekend that he had been moved to hospice care, former students (including the author of this article) shared their stories on the “I Know Joe” Facebook page >> https://www.facebook.com/I-KNOW-JOE-107451647778133
You can read through the touching tributes and it’s clear just how important he was to so many people.
“It’s just going to seem strange not being able to pick up the phone and call him. Not see him. Not see him popping his head on a Tuesday night band rehearsal. It’s going to be weird.” Twilbeck said.
Joe Cacibauda is survived by his wife of 34 years, Rose, and their three children: son J.T. and daughters Alexa and Zoe Cacibauda. The family will hold a private funeral service, but there are plans for a public memorial to be announced later.
Read Joe Cacibauda’s full obituary>> https://www.bradfordokeefe.com/obituaries/Joseph-Cacibauda/