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Teen-agers Gather At Grave Of Friend Killed By Drunken Driver

December 1, 1988

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) _ The trees are bare and the slanting sunlight of late autumn does little to ease the chill in Brookdale Cemetery, but Anthony Scaccia’s young friends still congregate at his grave.

More than a year after Anthony was killed at the age of 13 by a drunken, hit-and-run driver, his friends still spend hours at his burial plot, talking, sharing funny stories and gossip, keeping him company.

They leave flowers, loose change, pumpkins at Halloween, dolls, chewing gum, wreaths - anything they think Anthony would like. Etched with Anthony’s name on his headstone are a dirt bike and a fishing pole, emblems of his greatest passions.

It has become a place where the pain of death can be confronted and, sometimes, eased.

″Before Anthony died, if I’d come home late and told my mother I was at the cemetery she’d have been wary,″ said 14-year-old Billy Fox. ″But now if I say it she understands why we’re there. It’s a place to talk and think about things. It’s a peaceful place to talk to Anthony.″

″You don’t want anybody to walk by and say, ’Oh, it’s a typical grave,‴ said Fox, who brings his friend toy soldiers and flags. ″We want people to say, ’Wow , that kid must have been real 3/8‴

″They all sit around in front of his headstone and talk to Anthony about what’s going on in their lives. They ask how he’s doing up there and what it’s like,″ said Anthony’s mother, Dianne Scaccia. ″Billy Fox said sometimes in the summer he lays out and stretches his arms across the grass and feels Anthony’s hand.″

The outpouring of love and allegiance to her son does not surprise Mrs. Scaccia, who has four other children.

″Anthony was a kind of special kid. He had a great many friends,″ she said Wednesday. ″He was adventurous and the kids got into the habit of following him around and depending on him to plan out what to do. It wasn’t unusual for us to wake up at 8 a.m. on summer mornings and have 16 or 17 kids waiting outside for him.″

Public Works Commissioner Dominic DiVirgilio, who tends the cemetery, has watched from a distance as small groups of Anthony’s friends have gathered.

″I have never stopped or interfered, mainly because I know what they are going through,″ DiVirgilio said. ″They’ve been going down to more or less deal with losing someone as young as that, to deal with death and reality. I’ve never seen it as anything other than respectful and healthy.″

Anthony was struck by a car on Oct. 3, 1987, when he and several friends were crossing a highway.

Thirty of his friends showed up at the hospital that night to await word. School officials had to call in extra guidance counselors from neighboring schools to help students deal with their grief.

The man driving the car turned himself in four days later. He was convicted of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to five to eight years in prison.

Mark DeFilippo, 14, said he and his friends find it easier to wrestle with Anthony’s death at graveside.

″I think it’s a way of keeping him alive,″ he told the Dedham Daily Transcript recently. ″We go there to keep him with us. But we also go to talk. Talking helps me and everyone.″

Teen-agers said they leave sentimental gifts for Anthony, things that might give him a chuckle or keep him from feeling out of step with the latest fad.

″Everybody knows he’s up there. By going down to visit, we’re keeping him from feeling left behind or lonely,″ said Donna Galvin, a middle school student whose grandmother’s grave is next to Anthony’s. ″This way everyone knows he’s still there.″

″I talk to him and say ‘What’s going on? How ya doin’? What’s going on up there? We all miss you,‴ Fox said. ″We start laughing about something and say ‘Hey, remember that Anthony.’

″And I myself, I think he hears us, and I think he laughs. But we can’t hear him, ya know.″

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