Remembering Our Own
From our January/February 2002 issue: A special In Memoriam feature dedicated to the 10 Penn Staters who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jill Anderson '64 Sci laughs when she recalls the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For a six-month period in 1999, she flew back and forth between her home in Green Brook, N.J., and Sarasota, Fla., where she took care of her ailing mother. Her husband, Kermit Anderson '65 Sci, didn't complain about the thousands of dollars spent on airline tickets. He never made her feel guilty when she left him behind for four days every other week. And despite the fact that his wife had left ready-to-eat, homemade meals to heat up in her absence, Anderson found satisfaction in PB&Js—and in knowing that his wife was exactly where she needed to be. "He wasn't self-centered," she says. "I wouldn't have been so charitable, because I was selfish and wanted to be around him all the time."
In four years she would have had her wish. Kermit Anderson, 57, had spent 36 years with the insurance firm Marsh USA Inc., where he worked as a systems analyst; for the past two years, his department was located on the 97th floor of One World Trade Center. He planned to retire at age 62, at which time he could have received his full pension. "Getting his full pension was very important to him—he felt he deserved it," she says. "It had nothing to do with the money."
Post-retirement, the Andersons, who met at Penn State, planned on spending more time in the State College townhouse they had recently purchased to complement their season football tickets. When Jill asked her husband whether he wanted to decorate their new home with Penn State memorabilia, he said no—they had the real thing outside their window. His one exception: a stuffed Nittany Lion to watch over their house.
The oak bar at the steak house Smith & Wollensky stands between two groups of people: the Wall Street customers who earn millions making their clients rich, and the servers who earn a lot less but remember their clients by name. Patrick Dwyer '86 Bus, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, was the rare person at home with people on either side of the bar. A few days after Sept. 11, Dwyer's wife received a call from the restaurant's bartender, who explained that Dwyer, 37, had invited him to play with Cantor's clients at a company golf outing. "He made me feel like a million bucks," the bartender told JoAnn Dwyer. The story didn't surprise JoAnn, who describes her husband as someone who was more comfortable in a wrinkled sweatshirt than a pressed Hugo Boss suit. "No matter how successful he got," she says, "he still had this innocence about him. He never got cocky."
Patrick Dwyer, once a backup kicker for the Nittany Lion football team, planned to bring the couple's 5-year-old son, Brendan, to his first Penn State game this season. But JoAnn Dwyer is certain her son will still grow up with his father's influence. In November, Brendan's art teacher taught his class how to make personalized stationary. Brendan's creation included football fields with little goalposts.
If you ever talked to Michael Ferugio '87 Eng, you might have thought he and Joe Paterno were longtime friends. Ferugio, 37, often wore blue and white. His mood soared and soured depending on the success or failure of the Penn State football team. And he loved to recount the 1987 Fiesta Bowl matchup between Miami and the underdog Nittany Lions, who defeated their opponent with grit and will. "It was the greatest day in his life—second to our wedding, but I'm not quite sure," says his wife, Susan, with a laugh.
As an insurance broker at Swett & Crawford, a division of Aon, Ferugio befriended many people, including those who emptied his garbage can and vacuumed his cubicle. Susan, who lived with her husband in Brooklyn, learned of these friends after flipping through his address book. One entry read: "Ludmilla, cleaning woman 31st floor-WT2, son is at Penn State!!"
Paterno heard about Ferugio and wrote a letter that was read at his service. "Mike truly was Penn State proud and Mike made Penn State proud of him," he wrote. But it was Susan who found the words for Ferugio's memorial program that truly sum up her husband's life: "The true measure of a man," wrote Samuel Johnson, "is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
Janice Hazelcorn will never forget her weekend "with the guys." Her son, Scott Hazelcorn '94 Bus—or "Haze," as his friends called him—was living on his own in a beer-stained apartment with three friends. After her son invited her for the weekend, she found herself sharing a bottle of wine and homemade lasagna with him and his friends. "He made me feel like a cool mom. It was an honor—especially at a time when he was trying to break away and be independent."
Scott Hazelcorn never passed up an opportunity to bring those he loved even closer. At his memorial service, his friends explained how Haze, someone who preferred a hug to a handshake, taught them how to express their own feelings. "In 29 short years he figured out what was important in life," says his father, Chuck.
Hazelcorn worked for a Cantor Fitzgerald spin-off that comprised a close-knit group of employees who worked—and died—together. But he was planning to leave Wall Street to teach elementary school. Teaching would have been a perfect fit. Hazelcorn adored kids, particularly his 9-year-old nephew, Devin, whom he never tired of entertaining. "Children he met fell in love with him," explains his father. "He never trivialized their thoughts, and his imagination made the world fun for them."
Howard Kane '83 Bus Behrend awoke every morning at 4:30 for his commute from Hazlet, N.J., to New York, where he would arrive at Windows on the World at 7 a.m. Kane, 40, was comptroller for the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of the north tower. Though the official starting time was 9 a.m., Kane liked to arrive early so he'd have time to email friends and family members; in particular, he loved sending them jokes.
"When you got on your computer in the morning there would be a joke there to make you laugh before your day got started," explains his wife, Lori.
Kane had Crohn's disease, a painful virus that attacked his intestines. "Half the people who worked with him didn't even know—he went into work sick all the time," Lori says.
Kane took his daily regimen of pills in stride. "If I have to take them the rest of my life, it'll never bother me, if that's what it takes to stay healthy," he'd say matter-of-factly. Still, Kane needed to use plenty of sick days. After one five-week stay in the hospital, in which he lost 90 pounds, a previous employer fired him.
But it was Kane, not his wife, who assumed the calm, reassuring role in the relationship. "He told me not to worry about it, that it would take care of itself," she says. "He was always looking ahead. He would never look back."
The three Kovalcin boys had an agreement. As siblings growing up in Duquesne, Pa., they lost their mother to ovarian cancer and their father to a heart attack. "So we were going to stick together no matter what," says Ed Kovalcin.
But while the older brothers worked for U.S. Steel, David Kovalcin '83, '85 MS Eng decided mill life wasn't for him. With his sights set on an engineering career, he financed college entirely on his own through grants and part-time jobs, including a stint at the local Burger King. "He lived pretty poor. He had the same car for the longest time—a '73 Oldsmobile," recalls Ed. Back then, the youngest Kovalcin couldn't afford to visit home, so his brothers came to him. When they did, Kovalcin kept up his end of the bargain and dropped everything to spend time with him. "He loved his family."
Kovalcin, 42, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, started his own family five years ago in New Hampshire, where he worked as a senior mechanical engineer for Raytheon Co. But he always remembered his brothers. Not long after Sept. 11, Ed visited his brother's office. Among photos of Kovalcin's wife and two daughters, Ed found a photo of his own family hanging above his brother's computer. "He never forgot us," Ed says.
They, in turn, will never forget him.
Michele Nelson '95 Lib kept a list of reminders on her nightstand; among her self-improvement slogans was "Quit thinking of yourself." Truth was, she didn't need to be reminded. As a benefits specialist for Cantor Fitzgerald, Nelson, 27, believed it was her role to add a personal element to an often impersonal job. So she notified employees who may have been unaware that their benefits were about to run out and reassured those who were handed pink slips. "She was also the unofficial counselor, caregiver, and emotional support for many in her department, where she had a ready supply of Tylenol, herbal tea, and vitamin C," says her sister Monique.
"Have a goal and put a timetable on it" was another credo on that list. Three nights a week, after finishing her shift at Cantor, Nelson studied to be a pastry chef at the New York Restaurant School. On the weekends she baked birthday cakes out of crushed Oreo cookies, and sold them for $40 a pop. She would have received her pastry arts certificate at graduation on Sept. 25. The fact that she successfully balanced work and school was a testament to her drive. "She was very dedicated," says Monique. "That's why she was at work so early on Sept. 11."
Michael Pescherine '91, '94 MBA Bus had no business running in the New York City Marathon. Pescherine had been an accident-prone child—a car practically ran over him when he was 6—who had accumulated a litany of broken bones, not to mention fused vertebrae in his neck. "It's amazing he was even walking," says his wife, Lynn. But in 1999, against doctor's orders, Pescherine joined the herd on the Verrazano Bridge and struggled through all 26 miles. As he dragged his beat-up body across the finish line, he turned to his then-fiancee, who also ran, and remarked, "We're definitely doing this again." Says Lynn, who is due in March with their first child, "He was a very dedicated person. If he made up his mind to do something, he did it. That sort of encompasses all aspects of his life.
Pescherine, 32, who worked on the 89th floor of Two World Trade Center as a bond trader for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, never lost his sense of humor. As is common practice in the marathon, Pescherine had written his name above his number so people could cheer him on, and in the last mile through Central Park, several women began calling out.
"'See, I'm a hot commodity,' he said as we were running," recalls Lynn Pescherine. "He thought he was such a stud."
During a recent stop at Kennedy Airport, Jean Roger '99, an American Airlines flight attendant, discovered a scared 12-year-old boy who'd missed his connecting flight to Paris. But after a few minutes under Roger's watch, he was laughing. "She had this talent of turning total fear into comfort," says her mother, Punky. "She did really well with babies—and she did just as well with 90-year-olds."
Roger, 24, found joy in helping others, and her parents take pride in the belief that their daughter was comforting her fellow American Airlines Flight 11 crew on Sept. 11.
A birthday card Roger sent her boyfriend on Sept. 10 underscores this gift. "May you have love, happiness, and peace of mind," the message reads, "because really, in the end, everything else just comes and goes."
The subway pulls into the Fulton Street station. So begins an essay by David Suarez '99 Eng submitted with his graduate school applications. I look up from the New York Times. I grab my bag and join the migration toward the World Trade Center. I take my seat in a cubicle on the 99th floor with a background of the Brooklyn Bridge and the morning sun hovering over a distant Long Island. I begin the day by reviewing the goal list I have created from last night. The sun has risen slightly and the people have begun to trickle in. I am ready to begin.
In a nod to that determination and eagerness, Deloitte Consulting had recently promoted Suarez, 24, to consultant. "Not everyone in the world loved their job as much as David did," says his father, Ted Suarez. "To the very last minute, he was in seventh heaven." More than Suarez's accomplishments—an Eagle Scout badge, a 3.5 GPA, and a recent acceptance into Deloitte's MBA Education Assistance Program—he's remembered for his loyalty and selflessness. "What people say is that he reached out to others, that he smiled, and that he was warm and sincere—and that's what made the difference. He had such deep values," Ted says. "One would hope that all children grasp those values."
This feature appeared in the January/February 2002 issue of the Penn Stater.