Old friends honor their late fathers with new scholarship

07/24/2015 9:00 AM |

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Scott DePetris and Larry McGonegal have known each other since they were 2 years old. They grew up in Southold together, went to Southold High School and graduated together in 1995. When the boys were teenagers, both their fathers died and the friends mourned together.

Today, despite living nearly an hour apart — Mr. DePetris in New Canaan, Conn., and Mr. McGonegal on City Island — they work just 10 blocks from each other in New York City.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” Mr. DePetris said.

This weekend, the lifelong friends are returning to their hometown to celebrate their 20th high school reunion at First and South in Greenport at 4 p.m. Saturday. And they’ll commemorate the occasion in a special way: by creating a scholarship for next year’s graduating seniors in memory of their fathers.

Mr. McGonegal said the $2,500 scholarship will be awarded to a student athlete chosen by teachers and coaches.

The men’s fathers both preached the importance of “not only [being successful] but the hard work and dedication that it takes to be an athlete and a student and the balance between the two,” he said. “We want it to be a joint scholarship between coaches and teachers.”

Mr. DePetris and Mr. McGonegal came up with the idea while preparing for the New York City Panasonic Triathlon, in which they competed on Sunday. Mr. DePetris said the timing of the race and the reunion inspired them to create the scholarship, designed to give back to the town that gave them so much.

Their fathers, Wayne DePetris and William McGonegal, both died young — at 50 and 48, respectively. The sons described their fathers as very active members of the Southold community, especially when it came to athletics.

Both dads coached basketball, baseball and soccer teams. Mr. McGonegal said his father started Catholic Youth Organization basketball teams in Southold in the late 1980s and coached the women’s varsity team. Wayne DePetris was instrumental in getting people to play in the Long Island Junior Soccer League and loved to play baseball, he said.

“Every game I remember playing, Scott’s dad was the umpire,” Mr. McGonegal said.

Their fathers’ deaths strengthened an already close relationship, the men agreed.

“We were close at that point anyway,” Mr. McGonegal said. “We had a lifetime of memories and commonalities, but anytime you go through something like that it strengthens a bond.”

The lessons about community involvement and staying driven have remained with the sons long after.

“It is just a really great thing for kids to strive for,” Mr. DePetris said.

The scholarship will be awarded to one member of Southold High School’s Class of 2016. Mr. McGonegal and Mr. DePetris said the amount could increase if they decide to ask others to contribute.

Courtesy photo: Larry McGonegal and Scott DePetris

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