Edward James Roccella

Edward James Roccella

IRVINGTON—Edward James Roccella passed away peacefully surrounded by family on November 18, 2021. He was 77 years old. 

Edward James Roccella was a leading public health expert in hypertension and cardiovascular disease, a friend and mentor to many, and a loving husband, father, son, brother and uncle. Edward received his bachelor of science degree from East Tennessee State University. He continued his education at the University of Michigan where he earned a master of public health and doctor of philosophy degree in health education and health behavior. Dr. Roccella began his professional career as director of continuing education at the University of Pittsburgh Regional Medical Program and as an instructor in community medicine. Subsequently, he became an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health. 

In 1978, he began a 29-year career at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health as coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. In this position, he directed public, patient and professional activities, which have been cited to improve the nation’s hypertension profile and contributed to the nation’s large decline in cardiovascular disease. He led the United States scientific exchange delegations regarding prevention and treatment of hypertension in Brazil, Germany, Egypt and Jordan. 

Dr. Roccella was past president of the Society for Public Health Education, served on the American Public Health Association Governing Council, and was a founding advisory committee member and Board Member for the Consortium for Southeast Healthcare Quality for two decades. 

Over his career, he authored 110 publications in scientific journals and textbooks and was awarded the National Institutes of Health Directors Award, the HealthTrac Foundation Prize, the University of Michigan John Romani Prize for lifetime achievement in public health administration, the American Society of Hypertension Presidents Award, the International Society of Hypertension in Blacks Presidential Award, the Society for Public Health Education Distinguished Fellow, the 2008 Frank Lautenberg Award, the Consortium for Southeast Hypertension Control Presidential and Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the World Hypertension League Claude Lenfant MD, Excellence Award for Population Hypertension Control.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Ed lived in Virginia for more than 40 years. He is survived by his beloved wife of 55 years, Eileen Marie Roccella (Zavada). Eileen and Ed were high school sweethearts; they met at Clifton High School in New Jersey.

He is also survived by his sister, Anna Redmond and brother-in-law, John of Little Falls, N.J.; his brother, Vincent Roccella and sister-in-law, Charlotte of Wallington, N.J.; and sister-in-law, Nancy Zavada of Pompton Plains, N.J. Edward had four nieces, Christina Daulton (Michael), Jaclyn Spirko (Michael), Jeanette Lovenberg (Ted) and Karin Pilaar; two nephews, Matthew Roccella (Adeline) and Bryan Zavada (Jennifer); and 11 great nieces and nephews. 

He was predeceased by his treasured son, Andrew Michael Roccella in 2004; and by his father, Santo Roccella; mother, Viola Oddo Roccella; brother, Peter Roccella; and brother-in-law, Andrew Zavada.

Ed retired to Irvington with Eileen in 2007. He was an avid golfer and active member of Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club and the Golden Eagle Golf Course. Ed was a manager and secretary of the Golden Eagle of Irvington, LLC.  Ed played golf as often as possible no matter the temperature and enjoyed socializing with the many friends he made in the Northern Neck. They were all a special part of his life.

Ed enjoyed traveling extensively with Eileen, with special fondness for Rome and Sicily, the tulips of Holland, and seeing the beauty of the United States from the road. He was an award-winning home winemaker, always brought the bushels of oysters for Christmas Day, and could be found sitting around a table with family and friends celebrating life with a delicious meal and conversation. Ed was also a loyal fan of the Washington Nationals, Wizards and Capitals for decades. 

His passing leaves a huge void in the lives of the many friends and family he touched over the years. We will miss him greatly.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in Dr. Edward Roccella’s memory be made to the “Gastroenterology Research Fund 13871” at the University of Virginia by visiting at.virginia.edu/supportuvahealth. Checks also can be made out to “UVA Health Foundation” and mailed to “UVA Health, P.O. Box 37963, Boone, Iowa 50037.” Please include “Gastroenterology Research Fund 13871” in the memo line of your check.

Following his wishes, there will be no services.