The importance of friendship.

As I’ve grown into adulthood I tend to become a lot more reflective of my life and my family and realize how important lasting friendships are and I also now realize how important renewed friendships are as well. I have discussed the need for friends with my son who seems to have a whole different perspective on friends and social activities. Matthew does not go out of his way to forge friendships or to participate in activities. He generally has to be encouraged and usually rebels. He prefers to do things independently and prefers quiet time at home rather than noisy playtime with others.

I remember when I was a young boy attending parochial school at St. Theresa of Lisieux, “Little Flower” in the late 1960s, I was very shy and also preferred to be left alone but I did manage to make friends and I did enjoy participating in sports. I even remember having crushes on the cute girls in my class but did have trouble mustering the courage to talk with them. On one occasion I did actually talk to one of those cute girls, her name was Karen and I thought she was so sweet. I remember it clearly as I was talking to her as the nun, Sister Mary Rita was giving a lesson and she overheard me talking and walked in my direction and said “Young man! There will be no talking in my class!” and she proceeded to take a yardstick and clubbed me over the head with it. From that day on I was traumatized and never talked in class again and it took me a real long time to talk with girls again!

I have fond memories of the friends I made through the years and I find we are better people for the friendships we make. I enjoyed my childhood a lot because I had great friendships.

That is why I have stressed to my son how important it is to make good friends as we learn from each other and grow in the process.

When I was 11 years old I found it a difficult age because my family had moved from Brooklyn, NY where I was leaving all my good friends behind and I was sad about that. We moved to Bellmore, NY in Long Island. It is a beautiful place to grow up and I managed to make good friends as well. I went to 6th grade and had a very dedicated teacher, Mr. Single who I learned a lot from. My math teacher who left quite an impression on me was Mrs. Ward who I liked and she helped develop my interest. The first kids I became friends with in the neighborhood were brother and sister Richard and Tracy Kravitz who lived down the block from us.

Another great friend I made from the neighborhood was David Nemchin, a couple of years younger but a friend who I hung out with for many years until we lost touch. We would ride bikes and play baseball and we had some great times. One incident I will never forget was when I was racing him on my 10 speed and there was a lot of sand on the streets still from a very snowy winter. As I made the turn my tire skidded and I lost control flipping over the handle bars and landing with my arm extended. I wound up breaking my arm in two places. The radius and the ulna and spent months in a cast and had 2 surgeries. One to reconstruct my arm with metal plates and screws and the other to remove them. When my dad came to pick me up I was looking a bit green and literally waited at Lydia Hall hospital in Freeport, NY for hours before being seen and was I in great pain. I believe Lydia Hall is now a library. The one positive outcome I had from this was having cute girls take my notes. I believe one of the girls taking notes for me was Rhonda Kruman.

The first friend I made in my class room was Richard Schwartz, a very friendly kid who I liked immediately. He made me feel welcome. The next year was a transition as now I was moving on to Junior High School where I attended Grand Avenue. I also had fond memories there and some disappointments as well. I loved Math and remember having a great Math teacher who inspired me and made learning fun. Her name was Ms. Mixon and I thought she was great. Another teacher I remember fondly was my English teacher, Mrs Feintouch who challenged me to write and read the classics. I was a shy kid throughout my JHS days but did make some good friendships. One of my friends from back then was Gary Small who was a close friend. My biggest disappointment in JHS was getting cut from the baseball team as I really had hoped to play baseball. I managed to get over it and did well with my academics. Another experience I remember from my JHS days which was a very sad one as I remember it distinctly occurred in my Art class where Mr. Cristofel was giving a lesson and he had us standing at attention during a fire drill. We were assembling on line and I remember a girl from our class starting to convulse uncontrollably as she was having a grand mal seizure and she fell towards the ground hitting the drawing board ledge and then falling to the ground. She was carried out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. I felt very bad about it and remember when Mr. Cristofel conducted his class the following week after hearing from her family. He asembled us all together and had managed to find the courage to tell us that our fellow student and friend had passed away. I was devastated and remember crying for her. It was a very sad day.

When it was time to move on to HS I attended John F. Kennedy HS in Bellmore, NY. It felt good walking through the halls of the HS when I attended there knowing my dad, Edward D. Iannielli Jr. helped build it in the early 1960s when I was just a young kid. He was an amazing man having worked as an ironworker and helping to build schools, bridges, hospitals and skyscrapers.

I remember my best friend from Kennedy HS was someone I had tremendous respect for and someone I learned a lot from. His name, Sandy Nassau. I remember Sandy as a very intelligent and gifted individual who loved black and white photography and also loved to build things. I was quite impressed and enjoyed assisting him in his endeavors. His mom and dad and sister were very nice people too and they always made me feel welcome. Sandy would develop his pictures and I enjoyed hours with him watching him develop film in his darkroom that he built in his parents basement. He always had projects in the works and I was always asked to assist him. The most impressive thing I remember Sandy did was convert his parents basement into an apartment, drawing the floor plans and doing the carpentry and electrical work. Sandy was always driven and I am fortunate to call him a friend! I also remember when he also built his own pool table which was very sturdy and a lot of fun to play on.

I also had a group of friends who loved to play baseball and I enjoyed hanging with them. Of the group, my best friends were Martin Schindelheim, Steven Mirsky, Richard Schwartz, Mitch Cooper, David Aronow, David Meth, Ira Lipson and David Schneyman. We had some great times on the baseball field and also going to movies and the mall.

My bowling and Gene Michael (stick ball) friends were Charlie Summers, Mike Radvansky, Mike Alkin and Tommy Phingst.

A friend who I always asked math question of was Howard Kurpit, who looked upon the subject as a game. He had managed to pass a rigourous set of exams to become an actuary and worked near my mom’s department when he first started out at Met Life. He has always been a good friend.

I was longing to participate on a sporting team in HS and remember being recruited by the track and cross country coach when I was on the lunch line. He challenged me to tryout for the team and I accepted his challenge which turned out to be a lifetime of great memories. Coach Al Berkowski was tremendous and gave me inspiration and was tough on all his runners but in a very positive way helping to build character and self respect. I made friends with several guys on the team and a girl who I thought was special. Her name, Barbara Davis who was a tremendous athlete and was inspiring and a girl I enjoyed being friends with. She helped bring me out of my shell and she was a great friend. I also enjoyed running with fellow teammates, Teddy Canova, Kenny Eisenband, Paul Welsher, Roger Luchan, Scott Carlin, David Kurzweil, Scott Blafeux, Mark Solder, Andy Banks and Glenn Wolin. The one runner I looked up to as he was the elite member of the team and very competitive was Ira Meyers. I understand he still runs today running in Marathons.

A friend I miss very much who was very much a part of our baseball group was Scott Leventhal. I always liked Scott and thought he had such great potential as a student. He wanted to study drama at Albany having earned a scholarship. He was driving up with his mom to visit the campus and it happened to be a rainy night and from what I understand he lost control of the car after broadsiding a truck attempting to change lanes and flipped over. He was killed instantly and his mom managed to walk away. It was so sad attending his funeral and shiva and we were never the same after losing our friend Scott.

I also remember some of the girls in my class who I liked but did not really get to know. That is until our 30 year HS reunion.

I was deeply touched by a fellow classmate, Janet Rose Schenkel who made the trip with her husband from Tennessee and we had been communicating on Facebook before as I was going through a very difficult time after losing my dad. I felt very sad and she reached out to me and made me feel a little bit better. When I saw her I had to make my way to say Hi and as I did she saw me and she said she was waiting to see me so she could give me a tight hug. She really made my day and I felt priveledged meeting her and her husband, a lovely couple with lovely children. I also had the opportunity to meet another nice fellow classmate, Beth Karrass who made the trip from California. We made some small talk as my shyness came back but it was great seeing them as it brought back such great memories. It was great talking to Charlie Summers about fatherhood as he and his wife are proud parents of a cute little baby boy. Charlie still looks the same! We also received advice from Janet in that we should treasure our children as baby in Charlie’s case and young child in my case because they grow up so fast and Janet says you miss that part of your life. I understand what she is saying because I feel Matthew’s infancy and toddler years flew by. It just amazes me how fast the time flies.

Another girl I met who was in my graduating class who I became friends with on Facebook and was so happy to meet and talk with was Bari Lewis who is sweet and has a beautiful family too and helped me during a difficult time.

I also met some of my baseball friends, Martin Schindelheim who recently came to my Dad’s wake. He is truly special and a great friend. My other friends I met that night were Jerry Fortinsky, Adam Lighter, David Meth, Ira Lipson, Dino Currao, Teddy Canova, Barbara Davis, Ronald Kopp, Charlie Summers, Sandy Nassau, Roger Luchan, Natalie Schwartz and Howard Kurpit.

Dino Currao who I met for the first time at the reunion was so nice to me that I felt I known him all my life and Teddy Canova and Barbara Davis were my teammates and it seemed we ran together like it was yesterday!

It was a fun night and one I will never forget. Thank you Janet for that hug! You made my day! I wished I could have introduced you to my beautiful wife and son.

So these are the reasons friendships are so important and I will work with my son to help him as he deserves to have friends like I do!

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