Prof. Julio Mazzei and Walter Bahr (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
While I love my job, there are parts of it I’d rather do without.
The worst part of it?
Easy. Writing obituaries. They’re hard.
I’ve been in the journalism business for a good 45 years and dread writing about the demise of way too many good people, especially ones that literally hit home.
It’s worse, much worse, when you have known the person and his or her family and friends.
Perhaps you are familiar with some of the names below (they are just tip of the iceberg).
* John Pedro, a Portuguese pro soccer player who played for the old Rochester Lancers and who died of a heart attack while trying to make a comeback in his 20s in 1980.
* Tony Pullano, co-founder and owner of the Lancers in 1977.
* Peter Short, an NASL all-star, who was shot to death during a robbery in 1983.
* Ray Perez, coach of the Brentwood High School state championship team who died in 1995.
* George Hoffman, one-time Long Island Junior Soccer League vice president, was passed away in 1997.
* Fritz Marth, long-time Region I and Cosmopolitan Soccer League administrator.
* Tracy Ohrman, former trader for the Long Island Rough Riders who went suddenly in 2007.
* Livio D’Arpino, former vice president for the Eastern New York youth and amateur soccer associations, who died on Christmas Day, 2002.
* John Schroeder, with Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, Massapequa Soccer Club and Bayport S.C.
* Gordon Bradley, former Cosmos and George Mason coach and one of the founders of the Massapequa Soccer Club.
* Prof. Julio Mazzei, former Cosmos coach and confidant and friend of the great Pele.
* Emy Munser, a LIJSL board member who passed on in 2010.
* Jose Vargas, a long-time game official and referee administrator who died in 2010.
* Walter Bahr, Harry Keough and John “Clarkie” Souza, starters on the 1950 U.S. team that stunned England in the World Cup, who passed several years ago.
* Bill Stevenson, the former Nassau Community College coach, who directed the likes of Bruce Arena and Bob Montgomery at the school, and Shep Messing in high school, who died in 2012.
* Ann Rapaglia, the wife of Eastern New York State Soccer Association president Sal Rapaglia.
* Former Lancers head coach Sal DeRosa and players Omero Paris and Frank Caricchio.
* Peter Collins, former LIJSL president.
Those are the people that I have known.
There are dozens of others who I did not know that I have written about or posted obituaries.
In recent weeks, that includes former Long Island University player Alex Godelman and assistant coach Jair Arantes do Nascimento, Pele’s younger brother, and the Manhattan Soccer Club’s Freddy Fuentes on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Unlike many newspaper and/or online reporters, I have known many of these people who pass on. When I write about them, these are not cold words from someone who was unfamiliar with a particular.
My gift to any of these dearly departed men and women or boys and girls, is a story about them, to put them and their careers — soccer and otherwise — into proper perspective.
Who’s next? I can’t tell you.
I fear it will be someone else I know. I just hope it will be the longest time before I get another opportunity to pen another obituary, especially during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Life goes on, as they say.
But like it or not, so does death.