Raised between Italy, Brooklyn and Richmond Hill, Queens, Rocco Amoroso had a love for both the old and new, for the distinct tongue of Ropino, his adopted hometown in the Abruzzo region of Italy, and English, and for the gelato of the old world and the ice cream of the new, which became a signature favorite.
“Growing up in Italy, he always believed, ‘We had so little, but we had so much,’ ” said his daughter Donna Fortmeyer, 54, of Hauppauge. “For Christmas, they’d get an orange, but my father loved the simplicity of things.”
Amoroso, a Melville resident, was quirky, his family and friends said, and was equally brilliant and warm. The woodworker and Army veteran was a pillar in the state’s soccer community and founded the first-of-its-kind Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) Sportsmanship Program in 1980.
Amoroso, who was placed in kindergarten at age 13 because he didn’t know English and worked his way to City College law school a few years later, his family said, died suddenly May 5 at his home in Melville. He was 89.
“He was a man of the world,” said Rosemarie Amoroso, 83, a Bronx native and his wife of 56 years. “He loved his family, he loved to travel. He was a man that spoke several languages: English, Italian and Spanish.”
“He was wit and wisdom,” added his daughter Lisa Armetta, 55, of Manhattan. “I think that’s why my mom fell in love with him; he’s sort of like a Renaissance man.”
Born Aug. 12, 1926, in Brooklyn, Amoroso moved to Italy with his mother when he was 6. He rejoined his father seven years later and graduated from Boys High School in Brooklyn, now Boys and Girls High School, in 1944, Donna said.
She added that Amoroso spent two years in the Army and graduated City College with a degree in political science in 1950. The Fulbright recipient left law school soon after to join his father’s woodworking business, Donna said.
Amoroso grew up playing soccer in Italy, tying rags together to make a ball, according to family lore, and was an advocate for fair play in youth leagues for 35 years. A U.S. Soccer life member since 2014, his sportsmanship program was a model for leagues across the country and as far away as China and Ireland, said friend Randy Vogt, the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association director of public relations.
Amoroso was inducted into both the LIJSL and ENYSA Hall of Fame and received a lifetime achievement award from the Nassau County Sports Commission in 1998 for his volunteer work, Vogt said.
“His tagline was ‘building character through soccer,’ ” said Rocco’s son Robert, 50, of Merrick. “As a spiritual man, he used athletics as a conduit to being decent. Of course he loved soccer, but it was bigger than that. It was about code of conduct.”
Added Donna: “My dad was bigger than life. He loved to be with people, he loved to do good for people.”
In addition to his wife, daughters Donna and Lisa, and son Robert, Amoroso is survived by another son, Lawrence, 52, of Huntington; two sisters, Lorena Fitzgerald, 87, of Dix Hills, and Hilda Mekel, 85, of Philadelphia; and six grandchildren.
Services were held Saturday and Sunday at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. Amoroso will be buried Monday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church in Melville.