Every time I drive by the Stephen Steriti Ice Rink in Boston’s North End, my mind wanders back to the spring of 1965 and meeting Stephen who, smiling, motioned toward me at Bova’s Bakery, excited to tell me of his enlistment in the Army. He knew I had been recently discharged from my tour in the Marine Corps, so we chatted a few minutes. I wished him the best of luck in the usual warm greeting of two old boyhood friends.

Being recently discharged from the Marines, I was no pacifist. Slowly but surely, I joined the peace movement and eventually saw the fallacies of all wars where poor young men died for the rich old ones worldwide. Stephen was one of the toughest yet fairest kids in the North End who befriended me early on. That day at Bova’s, we shook hands and said our goodbyes as neighborhood friends do. Only one year later, he died in May of 1966 in the line of duty leading a platoon on reconnaissance as a volunteer head man in the Vietnam War.

Many years passed and then, on a visit to Washington D.C., I went looking for the newly finished Vietnam Memorial Wall, intent on finding Stephen’s name among fifty thousand names inscribed on it of those who paid the ultimate price. My heart felt heavy, saddened, and my eyes welled up when I found and read Stephen’s name. He was gone, and so I rubbed my fingers slowly over his name in solemn silence.

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Today, the Stephen Steriti ice skating rink is a wonderful honor and we thank you. When I see it, I remember knowing Stephen when he was one of the toughest kids in the neighborhood. He was the lead man in that infantry platoon. Only the bravest go there, and it was purely a volunteer job because of the danger.

When I drive by that rink, I still see his beaming smile so happy he enlisted, yet I feel a void when I realize the cost of his young life for this honor. I often wonder why Stephen had to die, especially for an unpopular war, and not have a life filled with the love of his own family, children, friends and laughs. So many heroic young men must never be forgotten.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. RIP my friend.Special thanks to Peter B. and the St. Agrippina Society for honoring and keeping Stevie’s memory alive.

  2. As a former North Ender who spent 7 years on active duty (a few years prior to Stephen) with various Army units including serving with the famed ‘elite’ 101st. Airborne Division’s Screaming Eagles” I would like to add to Phil’s great memorial about Stephen,

    Stephen’s assignment with the 502nd Strike Brigade shows how tough a North End guy he really was, they were noted as one of the toughest units in the U.S.Military, each Paratrooper member was selected on their ability to lead. On the day Steve died, he most likely volunteered to be the point man and be out front in his recon unit. It was an honor for the Army to award Stephen and his memory with the the Silver Star, an award well deserved.
    I am very proud of my North End upbringing.
    some gave some but others like Stephen gave All.

    god bless him in heaven.

    respectfully, former Sergeant GEORGE (Chubby) PESATURO

  3. It is wonderful his spirit still lives in his hometown neighborhood.

    It’s also wonderful to read the “story” of various local war heroes & leaders to whom various buildings have been dedicated.

  4. I worked at the Steriti rink and looked up at his photo every night wondering who he was. On a particularly slow night I studied the photograph of him, he was so young, looking sharp in his freshly pressed dress uniform, looking ready to take on what ever came.
    Why did they choose to honor him, over others? I am not from the North End and had no idea who he was or what he stood for, did he volunteer, was he drafted, would you want him on your team what ever the sport or game? I would ask about him and most people did not know much about him either.
    There I was 23 or so and had already out lived him, with far less purpose, at that time. Some strange connection eventually formed as I literally looked up at his photo daily, it seemed almost like he was watching, over the building, the workers, and patrons, enjoying his living memory.
    Years later I visited the “Wall” with my father in-law, Bronze V. I felt an overwhelming need to find Steven’s name, to make sure they had remembered his and his families sacrifice and for me to continue to look up to him and Honor him.
    I appreciate the comments left by those who knew him. I did not know until reading the above post that he earned the Silver Star. He must have been a great guy, friend and neighbor.
    Being of the next generation he has made a lasting impression on me, simply from his photograph and now kind sentiments by his friends.
    Thank you, now I know.

  5. Soft spoken but tough as nails, that’s probably why he was nicknamed “The Alligator”. Wish that we could hang out again in the corner of Burden’s drugstore…RIP Steve

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