There’s Tim Cotter, a graduate of Brown University where he played football, and also Villanova University Law School. He’s a certified public accountant and manager of tax services at Baker Tilly.
There’s Scott Verdine, King’s College grad and Main Street, Pittston, entrepreneur. He’s owner and president of ABC Kiddie Kampus.
There’s Corey Cortese, Penn State grad and process engineer at Simona America.
There’s Chris Yonki, graduate of Wilkes College and New York Chiropractic College, a chiropractor at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Chiropractic.
And finally, there’s Kevin O’Boyle, a Notre Dame grad who went on to earn an MBA at Harvard University, two accomplishments that bring some good-natured ribbing from the other four but only because they are proud of him. He’s director of marketing at InterMetro Industries.
They have much in common, these five, starting with their fierce loyalty to their alma mater, Pittston Area High School. They graduated from PA in 2002 and are each 33 years old.
All five are happily married and dedicated dads. Tim has a daughter Ivy, 2½, and a baby due any day; Scott, a son Cooper, 3½; Corey, a daughter Corrina, 4, and a son Anthony, 2; Chris, sons Brayden, 6, and Connor, 1; and Kevin, a son Flynn, 18 months.
All reside within the boundaries of the Pittston Area School District and that is by design. They want their children to experience the same quality education they did.
All five were Pittston Area athletes. Tim, Scott and Kevin played football, Corey soccer and Chris baseball and golf.
What they have most in common, however, is their love for one-time classmate and teammate Brian Cashmere. Get them talking about Brian, as I did last week, and as well educated as they are, they run out of superlatives. For all that these five men have accomplished in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the years since high school, none of it, they insist, comes close to what Brian Cashmere was and what he might have been.
Anticipation ran high in the summer of 2001 as Pittston Area seniors prepared for their final year of high school. A big part of that was Brian Cashmere. A football all star, track gold medalist, and excellent student, Brian, his friends were certain, was destined for greatness.
“Brian had brains and he had talent in sports,” Kevin O’Boyle was quoted as saying in a newspaper article that summer. “He was going to go to college. He was going to go to the Ivy League. He was going to go for free.”
The article appeared on July 15, two days after Brian’s life ended abruptly at 17 years old.
Brian and his mother were coming back from a track and field camp at Brown University in Rhode Island when their car got a flat tire on a bridge on Interstate 84. As they attempted to repair the flat, a pickup truck struck them, killing them both.
The news devastated not only the Pittston Area School District but all of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Brian was the reigning District 2 Class AAA gold medalist in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles and had been named MVP at a Bucknell University football camp earlier that summer. Brown had already offered him a scholarship.
But he was so much more than his exceptional athletic ability, his friends are quick to point out. “He had so much potential,” O’Boyle said. “He was smart and charismatic. If anyone could have become president of the United States it was Brian.”
“He got along with everyone,” Corey Cortese added. “The brains, the athletes, the nerds, the bad kids …”
“And especially the girls,” Scott Verdine interrupted.
Yeah, especially the girls. The girls loved him, they all agreed.
Playing with heavy hearts, the 2001 Patriot football team went 9-3 and won the Eastern Conference Championship. There’s no telling what they would have accomplished if Brian had been with them.
The loss for these five, some of whom had gone to school with Brian since second grade, extended to Brian’s mother Mary. “She was a single mom. She worked three jobs to make sure he had clothes, a vehicle, that he could live a good high school life,” Corey said.
Several years ago some of the guys put together a little golf tournament at Emanon Country Club and by the time it was over, the Brian Cashmere Memorial Scholarship was born. They decided it was a perfect way to keep Brian Cashmere’s name alive as well as to inspire current Pittston Area students to achieve their dreams.
To date, seven Brian Cashmere scholarships of $8,000 each have been awarded. Recipients are Kaylene Sutkowski, Anthony Schwab, Matthew Carroll, Michael Schwab, Allie Barber, Haley Norwillo and Milena Adams. Applicants are all outstanding student-athletes which means choosing a recipient is never easy, they say. Applicants must research Brian Cashmere’s life and write an essay on how they represent the same ideals.
The Brian Cashmere Fund is housed in the Luzerne Foundation and money is also used to supplement costs of SAT prep classes for PA students. Kevin O’Boyle seeks grants and recently obtained one from Benco Dental.
The fund continues to be supported by the annual Brian Cashmere Golf tournament (this year’s is scheduled for June 2) and by an annual holiday party. The latter is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 22, 6 to 10 p.m., in the lower level meeting space of the Joyce Building on Main Street, Pittston. There will be food and refreshments and live entertainment by Rob Brown. All are welcome. Free-will donations will be accepted at the door.
Those who cannot attend Friday’s party or the golf tournament but wish to donate to the Brian Cashmere Fund can do so by contacting Diane Dutko at the Luzerne Foundation (570-714-1570). More information can be obtained on the Brian Cashmere Fund page on Facebook.
Kevin O’Boyle summed up perfectly why these five friends of Brian continue to honor him all these years later:
“It reminds one to make the most of the time we have. To take advantage of the opportunities we are given. To cherish the people around us. Brian did all these things. In his short 17 years, he made the most of his life. He was given a lot of gifts and he maxed out all of them.”
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week for Greater Pittston Progress. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.