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Despite darkened skies and unrelenting rain Saturday morning, nearly 100 people came to honor two Somers High School students tragically killed in a car accident in June 1992.
Mike North, who had just completed his junior year, and Jeffrey Ianiello, who was a year older, were involved in a fatal, head-on collision with a dump truck on Route 22 in Katonah. The accident happened just before prom and graduation, devastating the community.
This wasn’t the first time North and Ianiello were honored. A little more than a year after their deaths, friends built a bench and plaque in their honor near the original high school soccer field. However, when the soccer field was later relocated, the bench and plaque were taken away.
In 2012, a tree was planted and another bench and plaque installed as a new dedication to the boys next to the new Andrew Strauss Soccer field. Again, inexplicably, during upgrades and construction on the high school campus, the tree, bench and plaque were inadvertently destroyed.
With nothing on the campus to commemorate Ianiello and North, friends and relatives again sought to build a site in their memory.
On Saturday, a new plaque atop a curved stone wall flanked by two saplings was unveiled honoring both students near the high school soccer field.
Although the reason for the occasion was somber, it also had a celebratory feeling. Many hugs and kisses were exchanged between former classmates who hadn’t seen each other in 30 years. Some brought their young children.
Lydia and Andy Petrini were standing under the tent looking at the photos.
“Our son played soccer with Jeff and Mike for four years,” Petrini said. “Both boys were very popular.”
North’s sister, Kristen North, greeted arrivals as they huddled under umbrellas or sought shelter in the small tent set up where photographs of the two boys were placed.
“I want to thank you all, especially the class of ‘92 and ‘93,” she said. “This is not a sad day; this is a celebration of life and of two amazing young men. Live your dreams to the fullest because you never know.”
Town Supervisor Robert Scorrano, a 1993 Somers High School graduate, recalled being friends with both North and Ianiello. He thanked families and friends who were involved with making the remembrance happen.
“We are here today because we want to show you the love and support after 31 years,” Scorrano said. “In 1992 at 17 and 18 years old we couldn’t wrap our heads around the pain of losing a child. We were consumed with the loss of our friends. After 31 years, this bond, this community hasn’t forgotten the lives of two amazing young men.”
Scorrano added that Ianiello and North were more than just names.
“They were the bright lights illuminating our lives with their brilliant personalities, dreams and unyielding spirits,” he said. “They were brothers, friends, sons and student athletes who left an indelible mark on those who knew them.”
North and Ianiello were close friends, active in various clubs and other sports and both excelled academically. They are well-remembered as soccer players who made headlines after winning a 1991 game, 1-0, when the Tuskers defeated Goshen.
The story has it that North served the winning assist, passing to Ianiello who received the ball and scored the game’s only goal in the final minutes of the game. Trophies won by their team still line the high school hallways today.
After their deaths, athletic and academic scholarships were established in their names.
Retired Somers High School soccer coach Drew Strauss coached Ianiello and North and attended last weekend’s tribute.
“This gathering was meant to give people perspective,” Strauss said. “Some of us haven’t seen each other in 30 years. I would urge all of you who are here for Mike and Jeff, tell your parents, if they are still around, that you love them. And although it’s a shame this has to bring us together like this, it is wonderful that we are here together.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/