Aug. 23, 1995 — July 24, 2018
Ryan Paul Lepo swam competitively, played football and soccer, and was an avid Buffalo Bills, Sabres and Bandits fan.
But from the age of 5, when he began playing in the Hertel North Park Youth Baseball League, he was completely devoted to baseball.
During his playing days, he was an unusual left-handed catcher who took a lead role on his teams at the age of 8 or 9. Around age 13, he started umpiring, developing into a dedicated and skilled umpire who always took the time to help young players.
Mr. Lepo, who studied horticulture and worked as a landscaper, died unexpectedly in his sleep in his North Buffalo home at age 22.
"Baseball was always his love," said Mr. Lepo's father, Michael. "He was really knowledgeable about the game."
That knowledge, combined with a sincere interest in helping others, distinguished Mr. Lepo, his coaches said.
"He always took the time to explain his calls to the players so they understood what and why he was making those calls," said Don Morris, who has been president of the Hertel North Park Youth Baseball League since 1992 and coached Mr. Lepo in his later playing years.
Both as a player and an umpire, he was a mentor, said Morris. "He was a student of the game and was far ahead of his peers in his knowledge of the game."
"He always had a smile on his face," said Paul Fuzak, who coached Mr. Lepo from T-ball at age 5 to age 12. "No matter how bad a day might have been, he was always smiling and he was always there to help any of the kids out."
Mr. Lepo was born in North Buffalo, the son of Michael A. and Julianne (Schroeder) Lepo and older brother of Sean A. Lepo. He graduated from Frederick Law Olmsted School 64, then attended City Honors School and graduated from Tapestry Charter High School in 2013. He studied horticulture at Morrisville State College, then at Niagara County Community College.
But his true passion was sports, especially baseball. By the time he was 8 or 9, he was helping other players improve, said Fuzak. "He was almost an assistant coach at that young age. He could do that because his demeanor was great, never condescending."
Mr. Lepo recently expressed interest in earning a certification to umpire outside his league, his father said. "He was planning to take it to the next level," Michael Lepo said.
As a child, he had an interest in architecture and was active in St. John's-Grace Episcopal Church.
He was a member of the Town of Tonawanda Titans competitive swim team for about seven years and swam for the Olmsted and City Honors teams.
Besides his parents and brother, Mr. Lepo is survived by aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Visitation will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Amigone Funeral Home's Delaware Chapel, 1132 Delaware Ave., with words of remembrance at 7 p.m.