Remembering Larry Senko, St. Francis football player whom I recruited in 1985 and who was living the American Dream until terrorists ended it in 2001 — and thinking of Tyler and Debbi
1Larry Senko, son Tyler, and wife Debbi before 2001
… on the 50th anniversary of SF football
That day: I still break down because the loss was so senseless. I miss him every day, and I never stop missing him. I feel cheated out of a life with him. I still love him.
Debbi Senko-Goldman, wife of Larry Senko, Sept. 11, 2016
I remember this particular recruiting talk very well. On a winter morning in early 1985, I met with Larry Senko and his parents, Ed and Margaret, at St. Francis College in Loretto, Pa. Larry had been a very good lineman for Mon Valley Catholic High School, and he was visiting St. Francis to see if he would like to attend the school and play football for the Red Flash.
We talked about many things, including the best-known athlete from his hometown, Stan Musial, the great Cardinal baseball player who also grew up in Donora, Pa.
What impressed me was the closeness of the parents and their son, and how they had great dreams for their son’s success. Larry had been very clear about what he wanted to major in at St. Francis: “Business Administration.” And his parents whispered to me a little later when Larry went on a frigid tour of campus, “Larry has big dreams … and he is a hard worker. And he just loves football.”
All of those were true, and after I resigned after the 1985 season, Larry and others refused to play for the man who insisted that the athletes awake at 6 a.m. to play Div. III football, which provided them no money.
Larry then focused on his academics, and here is that story.
Larry’s road to success
Larry enrolled at St. Francis that summer, and he embarked upon what would become a veritable Horatio Alger role in the business world. Upon graduation from St. Francis in 1989, he moved to the Philadelphia Main Line where he started his career in corporate recruiting.
In 1997, he was hired as a Vice President for Alliance Consulting in New York City. He and his wife, Debbi, had built a home in the Philadelphia suburb of Yardley, where she was a teacher.
Larry commuted from Yardley to NYC every day, working long hours.
Alliance had its offices on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
That was where he was on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a plane into the WTC and he was in a conference room there on the 102nd floor.
His wife recalled that day in a tribute on a living memorial to Larry,
On September 11, 2001, Larry left for work in the usual fashion. Rising at 5:30 a.m. and sharing kisses with his family before he left. Larry spoke with his wife after the tragedy began. In Larry fashion, he was calm and expressed his love. Although he promised to make it home, fate had other plans. Another hero was needed and taken before his time.
Debbi Senko-Goldman, Living Memorial Voices of September 11
Larry was just 34, just starting to enjoy the fruits of his labors in the business world.
His wife never wanted to talk about the tragedy immediately after it happened. It left her and their 18-month-old son, who was born in 2000, reeling in life. Tyler cannot remember his father, but he can recall the pain that he has to relive every Sept. 11.
Debbi remarried years later, but unfortunately, her second husband also passed away. They did add a daughter to her family.
In an interview three years ago with the Herald-Standard newspaper of Uniontown, Pa., she said this about her recollection of Larry,
“I feel very fortunate that I got to talk to him that day,” Senko-Goldman said. “His last words were, ‘I love you and I’m going to come home.’ I feel grateful I had that talk.”
She said 15 years later, there are not as many tears on a daily basis but that anniversary day is very difficult.
Senko-Goldman still lives in the same home in Yardley, Pa. she and Larry Senko shared with their then-18-month-old son, Tyler.
“He’s always with me,” Senko-Goldman said of Larry.
“I feel his presence. He was a great, great man.”
“Pain felt by wife of Donora man lost in 9/11 attacks lingers,” Sept. 11, 2016
Debbi also talked about how her son is coping with the death of a father that he barely remembers,
Tyler Senko never knew his father.
“As he gets older, it hits him more,” Senko-Goldman said. “It’s very difficult for him, but he has a lot of support.”
Herald-Standard, Uniontown, Sept. 11, 2016
Barely five months after the tragedy, Debbi did discuss Larry with the New York Times in a 2001 profile they ran about 9/11 victims,
Five years ago, when Debbi Senko was teaching at an elementary school, her husband used to send her flowers at work. A lot. "All the women would get jealous and say, `Oh, more flowers for you,' " she said. "So one time, when he sent flowers, he included one rose for every woman in my wing."
Gallantry came naturally to Larry J. Senko, who grew up in tiny Donora, Pa., but had big-city sensibilities. "I lived in a city all my life, but he was more cosmopolitan than I," Mrs. Senko said. "He loved fast cars, nice dinners; he loved art." Mr. Senko, 34, also loved working in 1 World Trade Center, where he was an area vice president for Alliance Consulting.
But he also had a down-home side. He met his wife in a local bar; both had followed the Grateful Dead, and the two began going to shows together. Years later, Mr. Senko would wake up early on Sunday mornings to play guitar for their son Tyler, 2. "Recently he'd moved from the Grateful Dead to `If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands,' " Mrs. Senko said.
"We were just starting to realize our dreams," Mrs. Senko said, adding that they had just built a house in Yardley, Pa. In August, when Mr. Senko gave her a surprise birthday party there, they stopped to savor the moment. "We were looking around and saying how grateful we were for everything," she said. "Sometimes you don't get the chance to say that."
New York Times, Feb. 24, 2002
Larry at St. Francis
Larry arrived at St. Francis in July 1985. I was tutoring in the English program that summer, so I was able to get to know him much better at that time than I had previously.
One morning, one of the other freshman recruits and I had this conversation,
“Larry broke his foot,” he said
Immediately, my heart dropped. Larry was one of our most promising recruits. “How did it happen?”
“He was just running down the hill and stepped into a hole.”
Quotes are approximate after 34 years, date was mid-July 1985
Fortunately, it was a stress-fracture, and he would be ready for the start of football, though it slowed him that year.
I knew Larry just one year since I left at the end of that season. Larry played one more year, but he did not care for the new coach who required the Div. III players to rise at 6 a.m. each morning to work out for non-scholarship football.
Larry also had “big plans” for his business career, which were more important than football.
A lawyer who grew up in Donora and remembered Larry said this about the family,
“I can just visualize the Mon Valley Catholic yearbook and his picture as a football player,” [Tom] Kostolansky said.
Kostolansky was the Senko family attorney and one his daughters attended Mon Valley Catholic with Larry. He too was a friend of the family.
The Senko family were members of St. Dominic Church in Donora, where young Larry was an altar server. “The entire family fit in so well with the parish,” Kostolansky said.
“He was just a nice young man who became a nice man. You could see in Larry the reflection of his family.”
Kostolansky said he spoke on many occasions with the Senko family over the years. Both of Larry’s parents have since passed away.
“They just never seemed to recover from that,” Kostolansky said.
Herald-Standard, Uniontown, Sept. 11, 2016
Larry was indeed from a wonderful family, and he had an older brother, Eddie. His parents have passed away, but they took his death very hard. They were so proud of wha he had accomplished.
And his wife and son will live the rest of their lives recalling a man who was special in so many ways, though Tyler will only remember what his mother and others will have told him.
I have thought of Tyler over the years and hope that he is doing well, hopefully now in college.
Those are the victims of 9/11 who are often forgotten, the children, the wives and husbands, the fathers and mothers, and the brothers and sisters of the victims.
They are the one we should remember on this day, the living victims of that tragedy.
Remembering Larry Senko, St. Francis College football player whom I recruited in 1985 and who was living the American Dream until terrorists ended it in 2001 — and thinking of Tyler and Debbi
Larry Senko, St. Francis football player who died on 9/11
My recollections about Larry, a man who was living a wonderful life with a wife and 18-month-old son.
They are trying to cope, but Larry had accomplished a great deal in his 34 years that led him to the 102nd story of the North Tower, WTC.
Remember the living victims of that day, too, those who have had to go through life coping with loss like that of Debbi and Tyler.
I remember Larry and his late parents, Ed and Margaret, and when I first met them in 1985.
Remembering Larry Senko, St. Francis College, Loretto, Pa. football player whom I recruited in 1985 and who was living the American Dream until terrorists ended it in 2001 — and thinking of Tyler and Debbi.
Worked his way to the 102nd floor of the WTC, North Tower.