Whitestone hero gets pigskin tribute

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Firefighter Thomas Casoria's family -- brother Carlo (l.-r.), nephew Andrew and cousin Tony Marden -- brave the rain for the annual football tournament to remember Casoria, who was killed on 9/11. Photo by Christina Santucci
Players from Thomas Casoria's firehouse, Engine 22 Ladder 13, take part in the tournament. Photo by Christina Santucci
Andrew Casoria, 9, throws around a ball during the annual Thomas Casoria Memorial Touch Football Tournament, named for Andrew's uncle, a Whitestone native who was killed while working as a firefighter on 9/11. Photo by Christina Santucci
Quarterback Mike Ruddick makes a pass. Photo by Christina Santucci
A player from Engine 325-Ladder 163 makes a catch. Photo by Christina Santucci
Carlo Casoria runs on defense. Photo by Christina Santucci
Engine 306-Ladder 152 of Bayside takes on Engine 317-Ladder 165 of St. Albans. Photo by Christina Santucci
A player from the "Myrtle Turtles" Engine 286-Ladder135 makes a catch. Photo by Christina Santucci
Engine 306-Ladder 152 of Bayside takes on Engine 317-Ladder 165 of St. Albans. Photo by Christina Santucci
Engine 22-Ladder 13, the house where Casoria worked, plays against Engine 325-Ladder 163 of Woodside. Photo by Christina Santucci
Firefighter Thomas Casoria's framed jersey is on display at the event. Photo by Christina Santucci

It was the perfect weather for a football tournament in memory of Firefighter Thomas Casoria, his family said.

“He would wear the field on his shirt,” Casoria’s cousin, Tony Marden, said as he surveyed the muddy fields at Alley Pond Park, where several football games were being played simultaneously as rain steadily fell.

“My mother would try every kind of detergent,” Casoria’s brother Carlo said at the Nov. 16 event, “but nothing would work.”

Ten years ago Marden, of Bayside, and Carlo Casoria started the Thomas Casoria Memorial Touch Football Tournament. Thomas Casoria, who worked at the Engine 22-Ladder 13 house in Manhattan, was one of the 343 Bravest killed on 9/11. He was 29.

“Tommy was a fighter and a hard-nosed kid, a hustler and a never-quit kind of guy,” Marden said.

There had already been an all-day football event for firefighters in existence, so the tournament was remade into one remembering Casoria, who grew up in Whitestone and played on both the gridirons and baseball diamonds for Holy Cross High School in Flushing.

During the first few years of the tournament, Marden admitted, the event did not run quite as smoothly as it does now.

“When we first started, we were out on the field in regular clothes with yellow things in our pockets,” Marden joked about himself and others serving as makeshift referees.

This year 16 referees in black and white uniforms called the games.

Carlo Casoria took the field with his team Engine 306 in Bayside as his son — Thomas Casoria’s nephew Andrew, 9 — tossed around a football on the sidelines. Both Andrew Casoria, who plays for the Mineola Chiefs, and Marden’s son Michael, who now plays for the Buffalo State College, wear No. 22 in Thomas Casoria’s memory.

“It’s a family number,” Carlo Casoria said, explaining that it referred to the family address on 22nd Avenue.

A total of 32 teams took part this year, and organizers grilled burgers and hot dogs under a tent for about 500 people.

Before the games commenced at 9 a.m., there was a moment of silence for Casoria and others who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Whatever funds are raised during the day go to the Thomas Casoria Memorial Foundation, Marden said, explaining that the money is mainly used to run the event and the rest goes to scholarships for students at Holy Cross High School and to help firefighters who have developed health problems after 9/11.

“A lot of firemen are getting sick,” Carlo Casoria said. “If there is a fund-raiser for a firefighter who is getting cancer, we write them a check.”

Posted 4:45 pm, November 22, 2011
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