Before the start of Holy Trinity Diocesan High School’s homecoming game Saturday, Bernadette Del Rossi stood under the new bleachers at John Kutner Memorial Field in Hicksville surrounded by more than 20 members of her family. For Del Rossi, attending the homecoming game meant coming back to the place where her big brother -- John “Jay Kutner -- had been fatally injured 40 years ago.
“He was a great athlete, a ladies' man, all the girls loved him, but he was very humble, had a great sense of humor and was just a kind, loving person,” Del Rossi, 55, of East Northport, said of her brother.
During a scrimmage on Trinity’s home field on Sept. 11, 1973, Kutner, then the quarterback of the varsity football team, broke his neck and died from complications related to the injury nine months later. The field was later dedicated in his name, and on Saturday, the school officially retired his jersey number.
“His coaches referred to him as the unquestionable leader of the team and the Class of ‘74,” said the school’s athletic director, Chris Hardardt, while speaking about Kutner during a ceremony held before the kickoff of Saturday’s homecoming game against the Monsignor Farrell Lions.
He added,”I am proud to announce today that the No. 5 will never be worn again by a Holy Trinity Titan.”
Kutner’s number is only the second to be retired in the school’s history, Hardardt explained. Three years ago, he said, they retired No. 76, which was worn by 1970 graduate Ralph Perretta, the first alumnus to play in the NFL.
Kutner’s eldest brother, Harry Jr., spoke on behalf of his family, including Kutner’s parents -- Justice Harry Kutner Sr., 91, and Virginia Kutner, 89, who could not attend the ceremony. He thanked the school, the fans and many of his brother’s former teammates who attended the game.
“We thank you for coming and remembering Jay, because as a family, not a day goes by that we don’t remember him, too.”
Before Saturday’s game, the school community also remembered Giovanni Cipriano, a freshman who died this week after a "sudden and brief" hospital stay, a school official said while asking the crowd to observe a moment of silence.
During halftime, seniors Jonathan Trencheny, 17, of Rockville Centre, and Bernadette Mullane, 17, of Bellmore, were crowned Mr. and Mrs. Titan. The student-athletes were voted by their classmates as true examples of Trinity’s new slogan: “How High School Should Be.”
Trencheny, a runner and a swimmer, said he was surprised, but he was honored to be chosen by his peers.
“They help bring out my personality, so it’s more of a win for them,” Trencheny said of his classmates. “I’m just going to try to be the best person I can be.”