John Pirro, a Long Island high school lacrosse champion who went on to coach his college alma mater to the 1983 NCAA Division III championship game, died Tuesday of Huntington's disease at the Visiting Nurse Service of Northport Hospice House. He was 57.
Pirro was an assistant coach at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., and became head coach in 1982. He was named Coach of the Year in 1983. He also ran the soccer team.
He had been a three-time All-American at Huntington High School, where he graduated in 1973. He then did the same thing as a defenseman at Roanoke, from 1975 to 1977.
"John was the kindest and most courageous kind of guy," said his older brother, Peter, of Port Jefferson. "He was the best kind of friend, one you could always count on. He always had his brother and sisters' backs."
He said his brother was a tenacious athlete who took the sport seriously -- "playing his heart out every play of every lacrosse game."
John Pirro became the first Roanoke lacrosse player ever to have his number retired. He was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Long Island Chapter Hall of Fame in 1996 and in 1997, into the Charlottesville Chapter Hall of Fame.
After leaving Roanoke, John Pirro became a salesman for Kraft in 1986 and stayed there for 20 years.
He also continued to coach as a volunteer in and around the city of Roanoke.
Many players whom he had coached stayed in contact with him. Some of them, along with friends and former teammates, started a fund for him about seven years ago to help in his fight against Huntington's disease, said his sister Jo Ann Pirro of Huntington. He was diagnosed in 2001.
Her brother had returned to Long Island in 2010 and stayed with her until he entered hospice.
Other survivors include another sister, Mary Jo Reynolds of Huntington, and two sons, Joseph of Brooklyn, and Nicholas of Roanoke, Va.
Viewing will be from 7-9 p.m. Thursday and from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick's Church of Huntington. Burial will follow at Huntington Rural Cemetery, in Huntington.