Jason Charles Esposito made an indelible impression on his friends and classmates at Canisius High School, where he graduated in the Class of 1985.
Mr. Esposito was both captain of the football team and involved with Model U.N. and other intellectual activities, said friend and classmate Valerian Ruminski. In the cafeteria, where high school social groups segregate themselves, Mr. Esposito "was the one guy who could sit at any of those tables, with anybody," said Ruminski. "He was equally at home with everyone."
Mr. Esposito will be remembered by friends Saturday, when a memorial Mass for him will be said starting at 11 a.m. in the Canisius High School chapel.
Mr. Esposito, 51, of North Tonawanda, was riding his bicycle May 27 during a visit with his mother in Florida when he was struck and killed in West Melbourne. The driver then left the scene.
Police said Mr. Esposito was in the bike lane of Palm Bay Road and Hollywood Boulevard a few minutes before midnight when a car swerved into the lane and struck his bike. Police are still looking for the driver of that vehicle.
Mr. Esposito was born March 11, 1967, in Elma, the son of Caroline and the late Charles P. Esposito and brother of Tracie and Nicole.
At Canisius High School, he was captain of the football team. "He was a unique blend; he was a jock that was extremely intelligent," said Ruminski. "He was on the Model U.N., where he was interacting with the intellectuals in our class. But not many of those guys could make a difference on the football field or hit a home run in a baseball game.
"When we were there, the Canisius Crusaders were a losing team," said Ruminski. "Jason was pretty much the team. He was the one guy who was getting the tackles, and he was making a difference on the field, pouring his heart out to win those games."
His mother said that Mr. Esposito once left home without a coat in a snowstorm. "When a mini-blizzard hit, instead of seeking shelter, he helped to push faculty and fellow students out of the parking lot without that coat I had pleaded with him to wear," she said. "When the administration found out what he had done, they paid his tuition for the remaining semester."
Mr. Esposito won a football scholarship to the University at Buffalo, where he was a managing editor of the student publication Prensa Latina. He produced a comedy show for public access television called "Class Act," in which Ruminski starred.
After graduating from UB with a bachelor's degree in history, Mr. Esposito traveled the country, working odd jobs. He hopped a Greyhound bus and headed for Alaska, stopping to fight forest fires in Oregon along the way. When fire season ended, he worked as a Santa Claus at a mall in Oregon, where a reporter for the Springfield News profiled him as "The Generation X Santa." "It takes a lot of energy," he told the reporter. " 'Ho, ho, ho' can drain you."
But Mr. Esposito said he enjoyed being Santa and would do it year-round if he could. He mentioned one little boy who asked for no gifts, only colors — green, red and blue. Mr. Esposito told the reporter,"I said, 'Hey, if that's what he wants, who am I to shoot down his illusions?' "
In Buffalo, he worked as a cultural resources and environmental compliance specialist at URS Corp.
Mr. Esposito decided to attend law school, graduating from Nova Southeastern Law School in Davie, Fla., with a juris doctor degree.
He then operated JLS Professsionals, for which he was a registered representative with the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
"He was so full of life, and he made people laugh," his mother said.
Besides his family and close friends, Mr. Esposito's passions in life were baseball and bicycling. His mother said Mr. Esposito attempted to try out for the Cleveland Indians when he was just 13, but they turned him away, telling him to come back when he was older. "He was always big for his age, but they realized he was too young," said his mother.
"He had an equal amount of intelligence, kindness and ethics," said Ruminski. "This is a guy who would give you the shirt off his back in a blizzard."
Besides his mother, sisters and niece, Mr. Esposito is survived by cousins, three nephews and a great-niece.
A celebration of his life was held June 5 in Florida, followed by burial there.