I grew up with John Vallorosi. We lived in the same neighborhood together. He was fiercely protective of his two younger brothers, a trait I greatly admired. John was voted Friendliest and Kindest in our senior class poll. It was an honor well earned. I remember Gus Sotillo’s quick and easy smile. One day at practice I ran into him as hard as I could. When I opened my eyes all I saw was the sun, and then Gussy leaning over me, grinning wide. “Are you okay?” he asked. Gus was a loyal friend, made tough by the kicks and blows of life.
Gus’ brother Rubin moved with the grace and strength of a natural athlete. He didn’t so much walk down the hall, as glide. He was capable in so many ways, yet seemingly unaware of, and unaffected by his many abilities.
Once upon a time Eddie Reilly was my very best friend. We spent a perfect summer together just before our senior year. I look forward to meeting him again, someday.
Religion received its name from being the science of rebinding man with God to bring man back to his origin.
Eckartshausen. The Cloud upon the Sanctuary ii.
Death is one or other of two things: either it is such that the dead man is annihilated...whence death would be an extraordinary gain....But, if on the contrary, death be a sort of travelling from hence to another place, and what is reported to be true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing can there be than this?
Plato, Apology of Socrates, xxxii.
The law...is to enter mortal bodies and after certain prescribed periods be again set free. Philo of Alexandria
Look on death as going home.
Kwang Tse, xvii, 9.
Death is a cessation from the impression of the senses, the tyranny of the passions, the error of the mind, and the servitude of the body.
Marcus Aurelius. Meditations, vi, 26.
Life and death are simply a going forth and a coming back...Things that have been endowed with life die; but that which produces life itself never comes to an end. Lieh Tse, i.
...and each part return thither whence it came into the light of day--the breath into the air of heaven, the body into earth. For the body is not ours in fee; we are but lifelong tenants.
The world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. Sutta-Nipata, iii, 8, 8.
Let not him who seeketh cease until he findeth; and when he findeth he shall wonder; wondering he shall enter the kingdom; entering the kingdom he shall be at Peace.
Extra-canonical Saying of Jesus (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus, 654, 1).
The strongest desire of everything, and the one first implanted by Nature, is to return to its source. And since God is the Source of our soul and has made it like unto Himself...therefore this soul desires above all things to return to Him.
Dante. The Banquet, iv, 12, 6.
Eric Van Etten
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes xii: 6, 7.
The doctrine of the Essenes is that souls are united to their bodies as in prisons, ...but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upwards. Josephus. Wars of the Jews, ii, 8, 11.
The door is opened...to the place from which thou camest--to things friendly and akin to thee, to the elements of Being. Whatever in thee was of fire, shall go to fire; of earth to earth; of air to air; of water to water. Epictetus. Dissertations, iii, 13.
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest...But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. St. Paul. Hebrews xii, 18-22.
Birth is not a beginning, death is not an end. Kwang Tse, xxiii, 9.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. Wisdom of Solomon iii, 2-3.
He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Psalm xci, 11.
Thou art an actor in a play, of such a part as it may please the director to assign thee; of a short part if he choose a short part, of a long part if he choose a long part. Epictetus. Encheiridon, xvii.
He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. St. Paul. Hebrews xiii, 5.
We are the ghosts of the departed, Souls of those who once were with you... Cries of grief and lamentation... Cries of anguish from the living... Sadden us with useless sorrow. Longfellow. The Song of Hiawatha, xix.
We moved from downtown Peekskill (a one-bedroom apartment above my uncle's deli on Washington Street) to the "burbs" when I was four. It was November. My mom arranged for me to start kindergarten early (I would turn five in December) at George Washington Elementary School. My first day of school. Four years old is young. I was scared to death. I had no idea my mom wasn't staying with me. I thought she was starting school, too. She let go of my hound and I let go a howl. They sat me at a table where the other kids were drawing Thanksgiving turkeys. I made a break for the door and was restrained. The next day I actually made it out of the door but they caught me in the hallway. I tried to escape every day for a long while. There was a kid at my table who soon became my friend. He was bigger than me, and kind of looked out for me. I remember we both liked to draw dinosaurs. During recess I would run around and around and around the gym or playground, and he would chase and tackle me until we both fell exhausted to the ground, giggling and laughing the whole time. His name was Tommy Scordato. Soon enough I had no interest in trying to escape. Tommy and I were in the same first-grade class, too. Mrs. Barker, I think, and it was more of the same only better: dinosaurs and recess and giggling and laughter, seemingly the whole time. And we had so much fun, and probably got in so much trouble, that we were never put in the same class together again. Ever. That was it; they separated us for good. Odd as it seems, I don't remember seeing Tommy at all for the rest of Elementary School. Or even through Middle School. But I never forgot how much fun we had. A bunch of us played in the Shrub Oak Little League Football Program in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Many starters on the Panas Varsity learned how to play as pee-wees in Shrub Oak. We were in the 8th grade, the last year of youth football. I was a running back for "USC". We were playing "Army". The play called for me to take a fake handoff from the quarterback, and run into the line to draw off tacklers from the actual ball-carrier. It worked well, and as I ran into the "one-hole" (between the center and left guard) I was immediately tackled hard to the ground by a big guy on defense. Opening my eyes, I found myself looking directly at Tommy Scordato. He had me in a bear hug; our facemasks were touching.
"Hey, John" he said, "nice fake". "Hey, Tommy" I said, "nice tackle".
And then we began to giggle.
Life is a journey homeward bound.
Beth was special. She was the girl that entered the room and lit it up. She was smart and vivacious and genuine. You just wanted to be around her. I knew Beth since first grade. We were good pals at Van Cort and I have wonderful memories of climbing trees, making forts and being in her house on Oregon Road. I can still picture her kitchen and the windy stairs to her bedroom that she shared with her sister Cathy. Her mom was our girl scout leader and being a Girl Scout was our big secret in middle and high school. While we moved into different circles after elementary school I never felt 'dropped' by Beth. Plus we had the bond of German class. Beth signed my yearbook with her exuberant scrawl; taking a full page to recount our friendship with every word in German. I spent time at the 20th reunion talking with her, easily picking up the threads of our friendship and laughing and enjoying the evening.
I visited her grave this past summer on Nantucket; I spent some time with her parents and brothers and sister. Beth had a spirit in her that shined with a rare intensity; it warmed and illuminated people fortunate enough to know her. Then she was gone. I miss her. It won't seem right having a reunion without her. I hope to honor her by remembering her spirit.
Patti Engel-Sambrana November 1, 2008
Everybody loved John White. At least, I never knew anyone who didn't...I know that I loved him. John was one of the finest athletes in a class full of really, really good ones. JW was strong and sleek, explosively fast, in big-cat terms somewhere between a lion and a panther. Powerful, but able to contain that power. More passive than aggressive, but you never wanted to test that passivity….
I don't remember if he was in grade school with any of us. In my mind, John just appeared in the 7th or 8th grade. Like Athena, the Greek goddess of War who sprang fully formed from the head of her father Zeus, there was John, appearing suddenly, fully formed, striding the halls of Lakeland Middle. A man-child, an athletic god among us pre-pubescent boys.
At 12 and 13, one of my many mindless pre-occupations was trying to figure out my position on present and future depth charts. It went something like this (no doubt during poor Mr. Skawinski's science labs): "Let me see, I think I can start in center field, if Haviland plays left, and Dahl plays lacrosse, and the earth opens up and swallows Murphy..."; and "Yeah, yeah, OK, there's a spot for me in the backfield, right?...yeah, yeah, let me see, we need a running-back, a tailback, and a fullback: 1, 2, 3. So, there's Perelle, Sotillo, Berrios, Dahl, DaRos...me...1, 2, 3, 4, 5...ummm… uh, oh, uh, oh, oh-no!" (This is why I used to tell my young daughter every single day: never underestimate how dumb teenage boys actually are.)
Anyway, JW showed up and all such calculations were immediately shot to hell. I was frantically hoping that he played three entirely different sports than me.
But of course, as everyone who ever played ball with John knows, he was a Godsend for us. An absolute asset on every squad, he made all of us better. Low-key, modest, gifted in every possible way, he was just so good, so smooth. So, so smooth.
John's dad, Booker White, lived for John, his only child. Mr. White was a giant of a man, with a booming megaphone voice. All of us on the freshman football team recognized the joy Mr. White took in John's prowess. He'd hoot and laugh and cheer from the fence-line way up on the hill; we'd hear him clear as day down on the field, and we knew we were witnessing something special, a rare bond.
Mr. White had a heart attack and died near the end of that freshman season, and John and his mom moved away. John was gone just as suddenly as he appeared.
I've tried to convey elsewhere how close we (the class of '78) were as Panas football players. I might be imagining some of it...it's possible...but I don't think so.
Maybe a part of it was the John White chapter. I know others must have lost a parent or parents during our four years at Panas. (For me it was an unrelenting and ever present fear). But with John's dad, the whole team kind of witnessed it. Mr. White was a huge personality, a constant presence, and we all felt the shock and the loss at his passing. None more than John, obviously. I believe that afterwards the more sensitive among us pulled even more tightly together.
John moved back to Peekskill in the fall of 1977, with the stated purpose of playing with us during our senior season. The effect was profound. If you do not think this motivated us, (it stirs me now as I write this), then please stop reading: you are wasting your time.
John was the only member of our team offered a D-1 scholarship to play football. He suited up for the Orangemen of Syracuse. I once went on another recruiting visit with JW (several schools wanted him) up in Springfield, Massachusetts. John sent them some tape without telling me--that's the kind of guy he was--and they agreed to see me and have a chat. We got there, and three coaches holed up in an office with John for two hours. I waited outside. They came out with their arms draped over JW, and looked me up and down like a cheap steak. One coach said "How much you weigh kid?" I told him (135lbs); he said "OK, thanks for coming" and went back into the office with John.
JW could not have been kinder on the way home, a dreary long drive down I-95 on a sleety, late-December day. Poor kid felt responsible.
Yes, I love John White.
Truth be told, I always think of John with a slight sadness somewhere in the middle of my heart. John was, in my opinion, dealt a hard hand. The death of his dad was straight-up tragedy, the worst time for a boy like him to lose a dad like his. Additionally, the 1970's edition of Peekskill was just plain ugly in many, many ways. It was not an easy place for a good man, a gentle soul, like John White. And I know, I KNOW, that he was acutely and painfully aware of it. We all were.
Yes, John was, in my eyes, a beautiful but caged big-cat, yearning to be free.
You are free now John. Godspeed, my Friend.
Pat O’Neill and I did not run in exactly the same circles in high school: he was way, way too smart for me. Brilliant might be a better description of Pat O'Neill. I remember when he spoke in class, some of us just stared with our mouths open, sort of wondering how he did that. There is an old Chinese saying: "You cannot speak of the ocean to a well-frog." Most of us were well-frogs next to Pat. That being said, he never made one feel so. Ever. I remember Pat as quiet, unassuming, and humble. And strong. Here's something that always stuck with me about Pat: Our senior season he came out for the football team, for the first time. It's not an easy thing to do, to try out for and make a good football team in one's last year of high school, not having played at all previously. We were a tight-knit group by then; we had all played together since grade school, as pee-wees, and we knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. Most of the starting spots were locked up: the coaches, and the players, knew who was going to play where. Pat tried out, and he made the team, and he won a starting position. He did it through hard work--very hard work. Grit and determination are two words that come to mind. He not only had to learn all of the plays from scratch (we had been running them for years and knew them well), he had to do it under a microscope, overcoming the coaches' and the player's pre-conceptions (misconceptions, actually). As in egg-head, non-athlete, never played before = benchwarmer.
Most of us vastly underestimated what Pat O'Neill could do on the football field. As he was in the classroom, he was on the field: above the rest. To be an offensive and defensive lineman is to be in a virtual war: it is hand-to-hand combat, each and every play, wrestling in the mud and the dirt while the camera (eyes) follows the ball carrier.
I clearly remember looking at Pat in the huddle after the plays (his spot was always directly across from me). I can see him, even now: his eyes narrowed, sharply focused, and alert; his jaw and mouth hard, firmly set. Sweating. No emotion, none whatsoever. Other guys, you'd see the fear, the uncertainty, and the trepidation. Not so with Pat. He was simply concentrating.
I used to think, "How cool, he's a Warrior-Scholar: Intelligence, Calmness, Courage and Strength. What a combination! I'm glad he's on my team." And I was, I really was.
My best friends in high school were Diane Nicastro, Rose Calcutti, and Liz Mitchell. I knew then how fun and wonderful these “girls” were but it wasn’t until later in my life that I realized what a precious and rare gift they were as friends. I never found a group like them again. What I remember most about them is that they were some of the funniest, warmest and most genuine people I would ever have the pleasure of meeting. We spent a lot of time together and most of it was spent laughing! These young women were glorious to me! I have now and did then have a particularly tender place in my heart for Diane. While most kids run around in an egocentric state and don’t seem to be able to appreciate their family until after they have grown and left their house, Diane was never like that. She knew way back then how important family is. When I think of us at 14 or 15 years of age I remember clearly how open she was about how much she adored her Father, loved her Mother, and admired her Brother. She talked about them all of the time and was always considerate of them. She would not do things if she thought they would somehow hurt any one of the members of her family. Whenever I was in their home (which was often) you could feel the sincerity in their relationship and you wanted to be part of it. It broke my heart to learn of her passing because I don’t think I ever told her how much she meant to me or how much I admired her family values, her warm sense of humor, and her friendship. I send my deepest prayers and thoughts to her family and look forward to seeing Diane in Heaven one day.
Mary Givens March 12, 2010
WAYNE BOHRINGER WAS A VERY SPECIAL PERSON. HE WAS SHY. THAT IS WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL ABOUT HIM. HE WAS CARING, UNDERSTANDING, AND WOULD GIVE YOU THE SHIRT OFF OF HIS BACK. HE HAD SUCH A PASSION TO PLEASE AND TO MAKE EVERYONE FEEL SPECIAL. I ENJOYED THE CHANCE TO BE HIS FRIEND AND I AM SAD THAT HE IS GONE.
GOD BLESS YOU WAYNE. GRACE BENARY (ECKERT) NOVEMBER 9, 2008