April 24, 2010
College honors son, friend
Scholarships, degree recognize senior who died in December
Greg Huether was in eighth grade when he showed his possible future one day, switching the TV channel — while his mother was watching a show — to a channel where he could see the stock market.
Ron and Marguerite Huether knew there was a sharp mind behind their only son and oldest child’s jock persona, but they were still surprised.
That was not the end of it. Last fall, Greg told his parents that after he graduated from SUNY Cortland in May with a bachelor’s degree in sport management and business economics, he would work for a landscaping business while he studied for the stockbroker’s licensing exam.
“I was dumbfounded,” his father said. “That was Greg, always intense and direct about everything.”
Huether, 22, died on Dec. 12 from viral myocarditis, a virus infecting the heart muscle. He was finishing his fall courses and preparing for an internship at J.M. McDonald Sports Complex in Cortlandville.
He is remembered by his parents and his many friends as pouring energy into whatever he was doing, whether hanging out with his seven housemates on Lincoln Avenue, or playing hockey, or working toward his bachelor’s degree in business economics and sport management.
His degree will be given posthumously. His mother plans to walk up to the stage with his friends to receive it during commencement on May 22.
“He was like my brother that lived next door,” said senior Tom Delesia, a housemate who was Huether’s neighbor in Islip Terrace, Long Island.
“He was not just my son but my best friend,” Ron Huether said.
Huether’s parents have started a scholarship at his high school, East Islip, of $1,000 each for a boy and girl athlete with an average of 3.5 or higher. It will be awarded June 1.
His parents also are finalizing a scholarship for two SUNY Cortland students of $2,500 each, for the sport management European summer seminar. Their son went on the tour of European sport venues in 2008 and thought it was a highlight of his college years.
“Greg wasn’t going to go because some of his friends didn’t have the money for it and he felt bad, but I persuaded him to go, and it made a huge impression on him,” his father said. “So this seemed like a good way to honor him. The scholarship will help students who might not be able to go.”
The scholarships are one way for the Huethers to deal with their daily pain. They attended a sport management awards ceremony Thursday.
They also came to Cortland on Feb. 21 for what would have been their son’s 23rd birthday. Following tradition, they brought a cake and took a dozen of his friends out to lunch, including some who had graduated and returned to town for the day.
The Huethers have two daughters: Jaime, 19, and Samantha, 18.
Huether made a fast impression. Though only 5-foot-6, he was powerfully built with big shoulders and arms. His manner was described as “bold” by friend Adam DiDuro, a graduate student.
“All he did was make us laugh,” said housemate Jesse Meyer. “Pure entertainment, sit on the couch and just laugh with him.”
In hockey, Huether’s hard shot netted him goal after goal. He was chosen for the Suffolk County all-star game even though his school had only a club team. He scored the winning goal for his team.
His parents remember spending hours on the road to tournaments around the state, especially Lake Placid at Easter.
SUNY Cortland club hockey teammate James Rowlands said Huether demanded other players come to practice, even if the team was club level. Huether led the team in scoring for two years, playing both forward and defense.
The club’s website recalls his hat trick in a win over Rutgers.
“Every game he played in, it seemed like he had the winning goal,” Delesia said.
Along with hockey, Huether also played golf in high school but took it less seriously than hockey, said senior Steve Hemberger, his housemate this year, who grew up four houses down the street from the Huethers.
Huether had different groups of friends who did not know each other. He lived with club and varsity hockey players for two years in a house next to Otter Creek, then moved into the Lincoln Avenue house last fall with Delesia and six other friends.
Hemberger, seniors Nick Froiseth and Barry Gibson and junior Cameron Gee were from his high school. Meyer and Brian Krol were friends he had met at college.
Huether did not play for the club hockey team last fall due to a bad back. He was getting ready for his internship, enjoying college life.
Viral myocarditis is a virus that hits the heart muscle after a cold weakens the patient, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can be treated with antibiotics but can hit without warning.
Huether was sick with a severe cold on Dec. 10 and 11, but went to class, his mother said.
“I feel like something is sitting on my chest,” he told his mother via text message at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 12.
That afternoon at around 2:15, his housemates found he was choking as he lay in bed in his third-floor apartment. Froiseth and Delesia, trained as an ocean lifeguard, worked to revive him while Hemberger summoned medical help.
An hour passed. Hemberger’s father, a New York City police lieutenant, told his son by phone, “If it’s been an hour and he’s not responding, you need to prepare for the worst.”
Huether was pronounced dead at 3:14 p.m., while his parents were en route to Cortland.
Cortland Regional Medical Center staff asked the Huethers that evening if they wanted to donate any of their son’s organs. They did, partly because Marguerite sees so many people in need, in her job as a supervisor of group homes for developmentally disabled adults.
“Greg’s eyes went to somebody, his skin was used to help a burn victim, his arteries were used for bypass surgery,” his mother said. “At first I didn’t want to do it, but I thought about how many people don’t get what they need.”
City police took items from Huether’s room — laptop, cell phone, papers — as they investigated the circumstances of his death. It was two months before his parents got everything back.
College President Erik Bitterbaum, Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory Sharer and Director of Counseling Services Rich Peagler visited Huether’s housemates that night to offer support and let them postpone their final exams.
The housemates did not want to be alone the night of his death, so they slept in the first-floor apartment’s living room and then went to Delesia’s house for a few days, with Delesia’s twin Ben. They returned early for spring semester to take the exams, and said life has returned to normal.
“When we first came back, it was that missing piece every time we were going out, that extra laugh,” said Meyer, an elementary education major who has been doing his student teaching.
“We’re doing OK,” said Hemberger, who plans to be a Suffolk County police officer. “You have to get on with life, even if it sucks.”
At the funeral on Dec. 18, Huether’s No. 22 jersey from East Islip was buried with him, along with several teammates’ jerseys.
“The funeral home said it was the biggest funeral they’d ever had,” Ron Huether said.
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