Nearly 300 people attended the Port Washington Youth Activities (PYA) 15th Annual Hall of Fame Dinner Dance, the organization's key fund-raising event that serves as the culmination of PYA's sports year. The year's event, held at the North Hempstead Country Club, honored Nick DeMeo, a current board member and key volunteer contributor, and former athlete Ed McIlhenny. Both of these men, in their own ways, have helped establish and grow the organization since its inception in 1963.
The evening was a huge success thanks in no small part to the generosity of PYA's friends and local business owners who contributed to the evening's silent auction and raffle. PYA would like to thank all those who attended, as well as those who contributed.
Nick DeMeo started playing ball in PYA in 1963, the same year the organization started. A life-long Port Washington resident, Nick has been a key PYA volunteer for more than 15 years, serving as a coach, director, committee-head, and major fundraiser for the organization.
His involvement in PYA baseball and basketball continued through his early teens when he also began to develop skills in two very different sports - gymnastics and golf. The latter coincided with the beginning of 11 years of involvement in the golf operations at North Hempstead Country Club.
Nick was a three-year letterman on the Schreiber High School gymnastics team, where he won the Coach's Award as a senior. He also earned three varsity letters for Schreiber's golf team under Coach Frank Meystrik, was the Coach's Award winner for the team in 1971, and placed second in the Nassau County High School Golf Championship his senior year, too.
Upon graduation, his involvement at North Hempstead paid dividends, as he was a Long Island Caddie Scholarship winner. Nick took his golfing accolades to Jacksonville University where he played on their golf team throughout his time there. His summers were spent back in the pro shop at NHCC, but by the time his undergraduate days were finished, he was an accomplished enough player to land a job as the assistant golf pro at North Hempstead, working under the club's head professional at that time, Joe Watrous.
After three years he left the golf industry to go into private business. He spent 11 years with Crystal Fire Restoration in Carle Place and in 1989, Nick and a partner struck out on their own and formed Total Restoration, Inc., which they have built to a highly successful business in Westbury over the last 16 years.
Nick got back involved with a resurgent PYA in 1990 to coach his son Nick in baseball, and his daughter Nicole a few years later in basketball and softball. He was elected to the PYA Board in 1994, and continued to coach for eight more years. During that time he participated as a coach in PYA's inaugural trip to the summer baseball tournaments in Cooperstown in 1996, and as coach of the summer baseball travel team from 1996 to 2000.
Nick has also served as chairman of two committees during his time as a PYA director - the Sponsorship/Signage committee, and the Golf committee. In the seven years since the inaugural event in 1998, the PYA Golf Outing has grown to be the organization's second largest annual fundraiser.
Nick and his wife Linda have been married for 27 years. He still manages to play enough golf to compete every year for the club championship at Wheatley Hills Golf Club in East Williston, where he is a member.
Before he flew in the air, Ed McIlhenny soared on the lacrosse field. For more than 40 years Ed has "cranked the rock" either for high school, college or club teams and has been recognized as a leader in the sport. And where did he get his start? At Lions Field with PYA.
As a fifth grader Ed fell in love with lacrosse. Why lax? He had played baseball, but everybody did that. Lacrosse was different - faster, harder hitting and requiring more precise teamwork. "It demanded from me - and arguably instilled in others - a measure of "situational awareness" to see the whole field," says Ed. "Through lacrosse I developed good peripheral vision that has helped me immensely in my flying career."
After PYA, Ed played lacrosse (and soccer and ice hockey) at Schreiber High School and helped out PYA by reffing lacrosse games at Lions Field.
In 1971 he entered the United States Air Force Academy and - no surprise - played lacrosse there, in addition to receiving his military training. The skills he developed at Lions Field obviously paid off - Team MVP in 1973, Team Captain in 1974, named an all Rocky Mountain League Player for three years and several team and league scoring records.
Following graduation from the academy, his flying record was equally impressive. He graduated second in his fighter pilot class, flew F-4s for four years and while stationed in Iceland, intercepted 22 Soviet TU 95 "Bear" bombers. In 1981, after six years of active duty, he joined the Kansas Air National Guard as a full-time Guardsman and three years later he became a pilot for American Airlines. He is currently a Captain with American and serves as the commander of the Kansas Air National Guard with the rank of Brigadier General.
Ed and his wfie Debs live in Wichita, Kansas - a place more suited for college football and cattle roping, than an "East Coast" sport like lacrosse, yet he has never stopped "laxing." Since the 1970s he has been playing for such outfits as the San Antonio Lacrosse Club, the Miami Lacrosse Club and is both a player and coach in the Great Plains Lacrosse League. In 2002 his Super Masters team went undefeated and won the World Games Championship in Perth, Australia and for 27 years he has played in the Rocky Mountain Shoot-Out in Vail, Colorado - if Air Force fields an alumni team, he is there!
With all that he has accomplished in life, so much of his world centers around a sport he learned years ago as a 12-year-old in Port Washington. "Compared to other sports, the lacrosse universe is a small one steeped in camaraderie and tradition," says Ed "and there's nothing better than belonging to such a group. If you're away from home and see a stick, you've found a friend."