It looked like a finish line, but it wasn’t. Hundreds of people lined Bayway Avenue in Bay Shore Thursday night, clapping, cheering and saying thank you as Glen Cove’s Eva Casale ran by with a pack of about 50 other runners.
But as the group approached an archway of balloons that stretched across the street, they didn’t sprint through. Instead, they slowed down to a walk and then, stopped altogether. After some tearful hugs, the crowd released about 100 red-and-white balloons into the sky and watched silently as they drifted into the heavens.
The tribute -- which happened during the final leg of Casale’s fourth marathon of the week -- was for Rich Arcuri, a Bay Shore resident and avid runner. Arcuri died on June 20, one day before his 50th birthday, after being injured in an accident while working as a contractor.
Andy Arcuri, 55, one of Rich Arcuri’s brothers, said Thursday’s tribute helped his family heal.
“When the balloons went up, it was a bit of a catharsis for me,” he said. “It was like, ‘Here you go, Rich. Look at all the love you got around you.’”
He said he also saw his brother’s widow, Susanne, smile for the first time since she lost her husband.
Rich Arcuri and his brothers were all members of Team in Training, a group that trains together for endurance events such as marathons while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
It’s that same cause that’s motivating Casale, a Team in Training coach, to run seven marathons this week. She’s hoping to raise $49,000 before the week ends while logging 183.4 miles. Her remaining runs will start in Lynbrook, Massapequa and Glen Cove, and for a suggested donation at goteameva.org, other runners can tackle parts of the courses with her.
Rich Arcuri’s children, 18-year-old twins Lindsay and Richard Jr., and Nick, 13, were among those who ran a portion of Thursday’s marathon with Casale.
“My dad was the type of person to push people in a good way and help them achieve goals, so tonight’s tribute is just spreading the love,” Lindsay Arcuri said.
She said her father instilled his passion for running in her and her twin brother, who now both compete on their college track teams. Lindsay Arcuri said before her father died, she had hoped to do a marathon with him someday. Although the two will no longer be able to tackle that goal as she had imagined, she said he’s still with her in spirit, particularly when she runs.
“It’s a thing with my family that if we see white butterflies or red cardinals, that’s a sign that he’s with us,” she said, “and I always see them when I’m running.”