Remembering Steve Vitale
1950 - 2006
It is with deep sorrow that I write this. Steve Vitale, 55 loving husband and father of three, was senselessly murdered on April 10, 2006 in what police and media are calling a "road rage" incident.
I have lost not only a student, but a very dear friend. I will not go into detail here about the manner of his death. There is a link at the bottom of this page to articles from the Staten Island Advance, which I will update as they are published.
I want to remember my friend. My student. My photographer. Steve was all those things. It is rare that you find a man like him. He was a Viet Nam veteran of the First Infantry Division, the Big Red One. A "tunnel rat" who, because of his size and agility, was called upon to go into tunnels dug by the Viet Cong to search for the enemy. He did this many times during his time overseas, and returned home safely.
He was also a drummer, like myself. He played in many groups. The one he was most fond of was called "The Lovin' End." He would tell me stories of the many places he played and bands he worked with. He loved music.
He also loved his motorcycle. His Honda touring bike. I once owned a similar bike, and the two of us took a day trip to the Jersey Shore. He was an excellent rider and always put safety first.
He was a Port Authority Police Officer when he first joined the Dojo. My Dad took an immediate liking to him because of his military background, (they BOTH served in the First Infantry Division). They also shared the same birthday! He was closer to my age (a difference of 8 years) than to Dad's, but that didn't make a difference. We both embraced him immediately.
Steve was not just a Port Authority Police Officer, he was the CONSUMMATE Officer. A HERO. He was awarded many medals during his long career on the job, including the prestigious "Medal Of Valor" for his response during the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.
I remember that day so well because his wife, Karen was working in one of the towers when it happened. Steve, knowing his own wife was in there, still rescued and assisted people from the site. This is the kind of man he was.
During his time at the Dojo, he trained hard. Most of the students were YEARS younger than he, but that never stopped him.
He was also a gifted photographer. In fact, MANY of the photos on this website were taken by Steve. He was most proud of the photo of me performing a wrist throw on Black Belt Mike Pagano, which graces the first page of our site.
He also assisted me in taping Samurai Jiu Jitsu: The Video Series. He had an amazing eye and such talent.
He was heavily involved with The New Jersey Special Olympics and the Torch Run. He asked if Dad and I would help, and of course we agreed. In 1991, a benefit tournament was held in New Jersey with Dad and myself along with Hanshi Mike De Pasquale Sr, and his son, Shihan Mike De Pasquale, Jr. We were presented with a beautiful plaque holding an official Olympic Torch. It was one of the proudest days of our lives
During the many times that Dad was convalescing, Steve would be at his house to see if he needed anything, or just to talk. He had a heart the size of Texas. There was one instance when Dad and I had a disagreement that lasted a few days, and Steve brought us back together. He loved both of us and didn't want to see us at odds with each other.
In 1994, when Dad passed away, Steve was there for me. He cried with me and was a valued friend. He was there to record on film my induction to the Sokeship Council, and the many awards I received. He also appeared on a Cable show with me called "Like The Water." It was a Martial Arts show which interviewed both myself and a select few students at the Dojo. Steve was his usual, articulate and mild mannered self. His was the most honest and well spoken interview on that show.
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I am so lucky to have that footage. I will watch it again and again, as I remember my friend who was taken much too soon in a most horrific manner.
I am grieving as I write this. My heart is heavy and my eyes are holding back tears. I miss him, and I feel for his wife and three daughters. He was SO proud of them. I can hear his voice, his laugh, and see his warm smile in my mind.
I never had a cross word with him. Ever. You couldn't. There was nothing this man could do to make you feel anything but respect for him. I am honored to have been his friend and to have had him call me Sensei.
I will miss him and think of him often. I may have been his Instructor, but he taught me SO MUCH more.
God Bless you, "Secret Steve"
Please give Dad a hug and a kiss for me.
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