Friends, Family Remember Empire State Shooting Victim as Vibrant Man "Filled With Love"

Steve Ercolino was fatally shot in the head Friday morning by a former co-worker who blamed him for being laid off last year

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Steve Ercolino was fatally shot in the head Friday morning by a former coworker who blamed him for being laid off last year. Hundreds of family and friends gathered to remember a man "filled with love." Brynn Gingras reports. (Published Thursday, Aug 30, 2012)

    Family and friends gathered in White Plains Wednesday to bid farewell to the 41-year-old man shot and killed by a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building last week. 

    Steven Ercolino was laid to rest after an emotional service at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, hours after his fiancee, Ivette Rivera, sobbed with grief near his coffin at Tuesday's wake. 

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    At his funeral, family members and friends painted a picture of the slain salesman as a witty, warm man who lived with passion — for his nephews and nieces, his New York sports teams, and especially for fiancee Ivette Rivera.

    She sat in a front pew near the white-draped coffin, flanked by Ercolino's parents, Rosalie and Frank.

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    "You completed him — you were the one," Ercolino's sister, Maria Ercolino Rashford, said in the eulogy she delivered with brothers Peter and Paul Ercolino supporting her on either side.

    Chuckling, she said he referred to the moments the couple spent together cooking and chatting 'The Ivie and Stevie Show.'"

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    Her brother was a stylish, athletic man, Rashford said, "but as big as his muscles seemed to me, they couldn't compare to the size of his heart."

    He was "full of life," she said. She was a first-grader when she signed every page of his yearbook "Maria the Grate," misspelling great, and even now, he would sign off texts with "I love you, Steven the Grate."

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    Ercolino, who lived in Union City, N.J., spoke with his father daily and called his mother to say he loved her — as he did in his last call.

    What eased the family's "agonizing grief" in the days since the shooting were the hundreds of messages and phone calls they received — especially the ones "about how my brother helped people change their lives for the better, advised them and mentored them," Rashford said.

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    For friends and loved ones, the Manhattan garment district employee "would take the shirt off his back," she said.

    Earlier at the pulpit, Ercolino's best friend, Paul Casey, sobbed as he started to read scriptures.

    He told The Associated Press afterward, "Steve worked with this man, who obviously had problems — but it wasn't Steve's fault, and there was nothing he could do about it."

     

    Andrea Longueira, a family friend, said, "He was filled with love, ambition, love of life; he had the most beautiful smile and sparkly blue eyes that will always remain in my heart. Everyone's suffering right now. It's senseless. I'm sick over it, but his spirit will remain because he's a wonderful person." 

    Outside the church, Carol Silva said her husband, who works at the Empire State Building, missed the street shooting by just minutes. She felt compelled to honor Ercolino at Wednesday's services.

    "You talk about fate -- right place, right time, wrong place, wrong time -- we're very grateful," she said. "And I'm just so sad for this whole family, and this whole situation." 

    To a tearful crowd at the end of Mass, Ercolino's sister said in her eulogy, "We'll live each day honoring his spirit, and live each day like he did: with a smile, with passion, with laughter and with love." 

    Ercolino was shot in the head Friday morning by Jeffrey Johnson, a former co-worker who blamed him for being laid off last year from a company with offices near the Empire State Building, police said. 

    Johnson was killed in a hail of police gunfire after brandishing his weapon. Nine bystanders were wounded, mainly by shrapnel and ricocheting pieces of NYPD bullets. They are all expected to be OK.

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