Teammates, friends say goodbye Stricken student is buried a week after outstanding game

March 26, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

They are used to running together, dodging and cutting and sprinting free into open green fields to the cheering of crowds.

Yesterday, they walked.

Six members of the Loyola College and Broadneck High School lacrosse teams shuffled toward the altar of St. Andrew By The Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, carrying the casket of lacrosse star Gerry F. Case Jr., who had so often carried them.

Hundreds of classmates watched. But there was only stony silence as the lacrosse players marched past Case's mother, Effie, 43, who sobbed on the shoulder of her husband, Gerard Case Sr., 45, in the front of the church.

Gerry Case, a 19-year-old freshman at Loyola who had scored the game-winning goal to get his Annapolis-area high school a state championship last year, died of a meningitis-related blood infection Saturday.

It was the second such case at Loyola this year.

The swift destruction of a seemingly unbeatable young athlete lent an edge of bewilderment to the overflow crowd of more than 1,000 who packed Case's funeral.

The Rev. Jim Kessel tried to ease the anxiety of the students and bring a context of hope to the young man's death by comparing Case to Lazarus -- a young man described in the Bible whose death was also mourned by a crowd of young people. In the Bible story, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

"In his short life, in his short battle with meningitis, Gerry's life was like the story of Lazarus," Kessel told the crowd of students.

"Like in the case of Lazarus, Jesus came to Gerry and said 'unbind him from his meningitis, unbind him from all those tubes going into him at the hospital, unbind him from this disease and set him free. He is free now," Kessel said. "He is with God."

After the funeral Mass, Case's teammates and family members escorted his dark blue metal casket to the St. Demetrius Cemetery on Reva Road.

With dozens of mourners packed around a tent over a grave, Case's mother nearly fell to the ground with sobbing.

During and after the funeral service, friends and a coach remembered Gerry Case in different ways on and off the field.

During games, he was a ferocious All-Metro attackman whose muscular agility, bursts of speed and bullet-like shot set records for most goals in a season (64) and in a career (123) at Broadneck High School.

He blasted a goal and an assist in a victory over Fairfield College last Wednesday, just one day before he told his coach that he was feeling ill and two days before his parents admitted him to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

"He had a real go-getting, tough style of lacrosse playing and a great attitude toward the game," said Michael Allen, 17, a Broadneck senior. "He was very emotional, and that helped him really lead the team."

Off the field, Case was a bundle of teen-age contradictions. The oldest of two sons of a utility company administrator who lives in Arnold, Case was simultaneously fun-loving and protective of his little brother, Joey, 16.

High school coach Clay White told the congregation how the muscular, 6-foot business major "borrowed" his parents' car to cruise around Annapolis, but immediately came forward to tell his parents about it.

Case once took his little brother out drinking, but then quickly confessed to his parents and even slept in his brother's bed to watch over him, White said.

Case loved to play jokes, like stealing his coach's maroon-colored gym shoes and mounting them on a plaque to memorialize his coach's goofy tastes. But Case also had the seriousness of character to volunteer for a project to help disabled people, friends recalled.

Coach White recalled thinking that a boy with Case's outgoing and persuasive personality would most likely end up in one of two professions: as a salesman or a politician. And as a politician, he'd probably end up on top, perhaps as governor, and do an outstanding job, White said.

"I have a hard time explaining to kids why Gerry is in heaven," White said. "I have a hard time explaining especially to his brother, Joe Joe. But all I can imagine is that God must have a lacrosse team. And he must have needed Gerry, because Gerry is the best finisher you'll ever find."

The crowd in the church exploded in applause -- the kind of applause that Case inspired on the field.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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