New York Daily News

December 5, 2001

One For Fallen NYPD Hero Cop

FDNY lacrosse game to aid victims

By Richard Weir
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Police Officer Ronnie Kloepfer had a dream for his NYPD lacrosse team.

It was to play its Fire Department rival in a big arena before a professional game, just like the Police Department's hockey and football teams do.

Kloepfer's dream will finally come true. But he didn't live to see it.

A member of the NYPD's elite Emergency Service Unit and founder of the NYPD's lacrosse squad, Kloepfer died rescuing workers at 1 World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, his teammates will face off against the FDNY lacrosse squad at the Nassau Coliseum as a prelude to the New York Saints' home opener in the National Lacrosse League. It will be each team's first appearance in a major venue.

The match, which will be played in Kloepfer's honor, is expected to raise $300,000 for the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund, according to Saints' owners Mike Gongas and Charlie Russo, who are donating $8 from every ticket purchased.

"I am already proud of him," Dawn Kloepfer said of her husband's legacy. "This just makes me prouder."

Highlights from the Finest vs. Bravest match, which starts at 5:30 p.m., will be broadcast during the Saints' nationally televised game, along with a phone number for viewers to call to donate to the fund.

Strong support

P.C. Richard & Son, the retail electronics chain, has pledged $60,000 to the cause, $25,000 each in the names of the FDNY and NYPD teams, plus an additional $10,000 for the winner of the "Heroes Trophy."

Kloepfer started the lacrosse team six years ago. He was the team's captain, and, at 39, its oldest player.

Despite the rigors of his job, raising three young children and running a home improvement business, Kloepfer found the time to schedule team practices, book fields and coordinate tournaments.

"I don't know how the hell he did it," said Police Officer Keith Hickey, who took on the responsibility of running the team with Detective Craig Carson and Officer Sean Rooney.

Teammates joke that it takes three men to fill Kloepfer's cleats.

Right after the disaster, Hickey spoke to Kloepfer's wife. "She asked me, 'You guys are going to keep the team together, right?' I said, 'There's no question about it.' "

Glowing memories

Kloepfer lived and breathed lacrosse. In his basement, he kept all his old sticks, from his youth league days to a collegiate career that included a national championship at Adelphi College.

He inspired his daughters Jaime, 11, and Taylor, 9, to play in lacrosse leagues, and his 5-year-old son Casey walks with a lacrosse stick in hand.

On the field, Kloepfer defied his age.

"He always said to you, 'Look at the old man go.' He was always feisty," said Rooney. "He would go out there and play his heart out."

To his teammates, he was a sort of patriarch.

"Ronnie was like our father. When we had a problem, we called Ronnie," said Carson.

Detective Phil Tricolla, a former player and close friend, said Kloepfer managed each year to form a winning team while being fair- minded, "which is hard to do."

Firefighters like John Fee, who battled with the cops on the field, were his friends off it.

Fee was among the cops and firefighters who were to travel with Kloepfer to Chicago on Sept. 15, when he planned to celebrate his 40th birthday with his family and play in an annual lacrosse tournament.

They are making another trip instead, to the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, L.I., on Dec. 8.

"The reason we are doing this for Ronnie is he did so much for us," said Rooney. "He put all his effort into running this lacrosse team."