Award-Winning Cameraman Joseph Sokota Dead at 89

He was the first person to man the camera at the fourth turn at the Daytona 500

Joseph Michael Sokota, 89, an award-winning camera operator for CBS Sports, died Saturday of complications from pneumonia. He is survived by his wife, Oie, and daughters, Karen and Janice.

Joseph Michael Sokota, an award-winning cameraman for CBS Sports, died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 89.

Sokota’s sports career was highlighted by being the first camera operator to take up a manned position at turn four of the Daytona 500. Previously, the camera at that turn was unmanned because of the dangerous working conditions, and Sokota actually had to wear a helmet (and also keep his eyes open for flying debris). Other sports credits include football, basketball, and golf. On the news side, he covered NASA launches at Cape Kennedy in the 1960s and ’70s. He also was a photographer for 60 Minutes.

Other television credits include shows starring Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, Arthur Godfrey, Jason Robards, and Orson Wells. He also worked on Playhouse 90, The Jackie Gleason Show, Inside the Actors Studio, Omnibus, and Cinderella.

Sokota was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, in 1927 to Jurie and Rose Sokota. As an elementary student in the Bronx, he built a bicycle and a wooden shoeshine box and worked the streets of New York City, earning 10¢ a shine to help with family finances during the Depression. After his family moved to Queens, Sokota often walked the seven miles from his Elmhurst home to Haaren High School on Manhattan’s West Side to save the nickel subway fare.

He enlisted in the Army in 1945, spending many off-duty hours photographing scenes of architectural beauty amid the devastation in Europe from World War II. Returning to the States, Sokota studied acting and singing at the Theodora Irvine School for Dramatic Arts. The range of his basso profundo voice won him scholarships. He performed in summer stock and joined the Kitteridge Players in Connecticut, singing in operatic recitals and acting in productions of Shakespeare’s plays.

Arrangements are as follows:

VISITATION April 18, 2:00-4:30 p.m., 7:00-9:30 p.m.
New Hyde Park Funeral Home
506 Lakeville Rd.
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

FUNERAL SERVICE April 19, 10:00 a.m.
New Hyde Park Funeral Home
506 Lakeville Rd.
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

Oie Sokota
47 Cornell Dr.
Great Neck, NY 11020

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