The below article was written by Denis Hamill of the NY Daily News, published February 26, 2014. Phots by: Andrew Savulich for New York Daily News
I knew Anthony through the little league his sons are a part of (I coached one of his son’s team along with my son and worked with him as a fellow coach for about 4-5 years). My wife went to school with his wife and my son is friends with his two oldest He will definitely be missed by many.
Dead of winter.
Anthony Rolleri, the father of my son’s former Little League teammate, did not make it through the snows of this grim winter.
Rolleri, 43, co-owned two pizzerias, including Angelo’s Pizza on Corona Ave. in Corona, Queens, run by his family since 1958. My kid’s Little League team often went there after games.
Anthony Rolleri’s proudest business account was cooking up spreads for the visiting team’s clubhouse at Shea Stadium, and then Citi Field. Straight-faced, I once asked if he ever considered spiking the grub with Ex-Lax so the visiting team, especially the Yankees, would play like crap against the Mets. Rolleri recoiled. “You are one sick puppy, man!”
“Think how much we could make betting the game,” I said.
Now he exploded with laughter, realizing I was busting his chops.
He was a handsome Italian-American with dark hair and pale blue starburst eyes that caught the attention of female customers. But the only girl he had eyes for was his wife, Antonella, whom he started dating when she was 13 and he was 14.
“The day I spotted Anthony on the street I told my friend Daniela, ‘That’s the guy I’m gonna marry,’ ” Antonella says. “I married him when I was 22. We had three great kids. Neither of us ever went out with anyone else.”
When I ran into Rolleri last summer at a baseball field at Cunningham Park in Queens, I told him how rested he looked.
“Yeah, I sold one pizzeria,” he said. “The stress was killing me. Too many hours. Too many missed kids’ games. What’s the point of working for your kids if you can’t spend time with your kids?”
A week before he died, Anthony Rolleri went snowmobiling upstate with his son Anthony Jr., 14, and his wife’s brother Franco.
“He’d been complaining about a pain in his left shoulder for a while,” says Antonella. “I told him to go to the doctor. He said, ‘No, it’s muscular.’ ”
Besides, Antonella says, last year, because of his father’s history of heart problems, Rolleri went to a cardiologist for a stress test, an EKG, an echocardiogram and a carotid Doppler. “The cardiologist told Anthony he had the heart of a 17-year-old,” says his widow.
When he came home from snowmobiling, Anthony gave Antonella a dozen “beautiful red roses for Valentine’s Day.” The next day, he tried to clear his sidewalk with a snow blower. “But his shoulder hurt him so bad doing it, the next-door neighbor did it for him,” says Antonella.
On that Saturday, stubborn Anthony went to work. “After he came home, we hung out until 2 a.m.,” says Antonella. “I massaged his shoulder. We went to sleep. At 3:15, Anthony woke up gasping. Trying to talk. No words came out. I called 911.”
EMTs and cops arrived fast. “They got a pulse,” she says, her voice cracking. “I had hope. But he passed in Booth Memorial Hospital at 4:30 a.m. The autopsy said his heart arteries were 99% clogged.
Anthony Rolleri would never see his kids play another baseball game. He would never again give Antonella roses on Valentine’s Day.
“The wake at Frederick’s was packed,” says Joe Iurillo, Anthony’s first cousin. “People wept in the street as police escorted his funeral (procession) from St. Fidelis Church, past Angelo’s pizzeria, past Citi Field, past his home in College Point and to St. Mary’s Cemetery.”
Still, Antonella considers herself a lucky woman.
“I am completely heartbroken,” she says. “But I had 28 wonderful years with this beautiful man, who was beautiful inside and out. He worked so, so hard for me and our children. Yes, he’s gone much too soon. But we were so very blessed to have had him.”