I learned today that Tony Ruggerio died this past Friday. He was 40.
Tony and I grew up together, and, like many childhood friendships, grew apart over the years.
After we graduated high school, I occasionally ran into him at Rowan, and we actually had a class together (along with Kim Clements — now Duffy — another Hammonton alum; they were dating at the time, if memory serves): Chemistry of Everyday Life, more aptly known as Chemistry for Idiots. It was a fluff class that fulfilled a lab requirement which is why we all took it, and freely passed our notes back and forth to help each other out.
After that class, I’d frequently run into him around town. The last time was shortly after his father died, and it was clear he was struggling.
Not long after that he made a very poor choice with disastrously tragic consequences, and it took him almost eight years to repay his debt to society.
As I understand, he never learned how to live with the events of that day — events which I will not get into here — and now, a year after coming home, Tony’s gone.
I choose not to think about that when I remember him.
Instead, I remember my friend in second grade, with whom — and with Jim Mento — I was in the talent show, and the three of us performed a Ghostbusters routine, seen here for the first time in more than 30 years:
I choose to remember the friend who — again, with Jim — was one of two people to come to my birthday party that summer.
I choose to remember my teammate on the Think Day 92 team, where we won first place.
I choose to remember his spot on impressions of Chris Farley, living in a van down by the river.
I choose to remember our class clown, who went out of his way to make others laugh.
I choose to remember a man with a good heart who fell, and didn’t know how to get back up, but who still helped others smile.
I choose to remember my childhood friend with fondness. And I will continue to remember him — as I have with every single viewing for the last 32 years– whenever I watch Ghostbusters.
It was a privilege, Tony.
See you on the other side.