A Tribute to Steve Lauria
By David Panza
We just attended a very moving service for Steve Lauria at St. Theresa's, after hearing Mark Vogt's touching eulogy for Steve at the candlelight vigil, and reading Almo Ramos' heartfelt story on this website. Those who didn't know Steve that well have a much better idea now as to the type of person he was. What an amazing impact he had on so many of us in such a relatively short period of time!
I recall two incidents involving Steve that affected me directly in a humorous way that I'd like to share. Mark read Steve's written account of the blizzard race at the candlelight vigil, and I was there firsthand to witness the extraordinary event. That morning was horribly dangerous for driving, and my wife Janet tried to persuade me not to go. She correctly pointed out the danger I was putting myself in. My logic was that if the Parks Department plowed the course, there are enough runners who could walk to the starting line from where they live. Thus, the race could and must go on. I hadn't been in contact with Mark or Fred Rigolini, but surely Steve would not be there. He had heart surgery on Wednesday and was released from the hospital on Thursday.
When I drove up, several things were apparent. The course was not plowed, there were no runners and no cars in the parking lot. There was, however, one lone figure standing by the bridge in a parka. Who could that be, I asked myself. As I made my way through the blizzard toward the unrecognizable stranger, I began to laugh, as did the "stranger". I was laughing at Steve for even being there, and he was laughing at me for driving to Clove Lakes from Bay Terrace.
Steve was there to time the race, incredibly. The rest you know about - John Wowk, Keith Gill and Alex Liberatore joined me in the historic race. Keith won the best quip award, when he said to me at the 3/4 mile mark that Steve better be at the 1-mile sign with our split.
The other story involves a mad dash Steve and I had in a Fun Run, where I nosed him out by a stride. I was so exhausted from the effort that I collapsed in the grass beyond the finish line. The grass, mud and sweat all combined to form a stain on my gray tank top, a stain I could not get out, to this day. I told Steve, and he was always so proud that he had caused the permanent stain, and made sure I did not throw the shirt out, but instead wear it occasionally for his benefit.
Steve buddy, I'll miss our daily 5:30PM ferry rides, where you'd show me your latest running shoes purchase. I know it was on sale, but how many pairs do you need? And I'll try to heed your advice - don't turn around during the race, you'll lose at least 10 seconds. Your passion for the sport was unsurpassed, even compared to the many running nuts in our club. We need you to pace us on our long Sunday morning runs, and tell us one of your many high school track stories to amuse us. Rest well in running heaven, Steve, because I know you're there looking down on us, pushing us toward a Personal Best in the next race.