Former Sylvania residents Sue and Tim Iorio will autograph copies of their book “The Penn State Walk-On: Overcoming the Pain and Legacy of Suicide Through Football, Faith, and Family,” at Angela’s Angels, 5774 Main St. on Sept. 24. The book signing will be from 1 to 4 pm.
The book tells the story of the Iorios’ oldest son Nick whose battle with a mental health issue ended in suicide when he was 20 years old in 1997. The grief of the parents and their two younger sons is also depicted as is the healing, which began when the youngest brother Joe was invited to walk on the Penn State University football team. “While the story is heartbreaking, it is ultimately uplifting and positive in the end,” Mr. Iorio stated.
“We wrote this book to leave a legacy for our grandchildren, so they could know their Uncle Nick,” Mrs. Iorio said. “And we wanted to share our struggles and our journey through grief to help others who are in that situation. Most important, though, we hope Nick’s story will help those contemplating suicide to find other options and to seek help. We also want to send a strong message about the need to do more about mental health and gun safety issues.”
The couple had been invited to give talks about their journey and many people mentioned that they should write a book based on their story. However, according to Mr. Iorio, it took several years to actually begin to do the book although he had been compiling notes for a memoir for some time. “Once we decided, we had it complete in a little over a year,” he said.
“And while it was painful to work on the book in the beginning, it became a very positive experience by the time we finished,” Mrs. Iorio added.
“The timing is good now. This is the 25th anniversary of Nick’s death. There are certainly good things that have come about in those years. In 1997, mental health issues were stigmatized and today, that is not necessarily the case and people will talk about the issue. On the other hand, many things are the same or worse. Today, suicides are up and that has become the second leading cause of death in youth aged 14 to 24. Not very much is being done to prevent that and we are not doing enough to help with mental health issues. Also, gun violence is simply out of hand. So many young children are dying as a result of gun violence. We have to do something about that too,” Mrs. Iorio emphasized.
A portion of the proceeds from book sales benefit the Nick Iorio Scholarship, which is given yearly in his memory to a junior student at St. Francis de Sales who plays football, is a good student, and exhibits hard-working qualities similar to Nick Iorio. The scholarship is to be used for the recipient’s senior year at St. Francis.
It was Nick who encouraged his younger brother Joe to do his best in football. All three Iorio brothers followed in their father’s footsteps playing football for St. Francis. Nick went on to play Division III football but convinced his brother Joe that he could be a Division I lineman. Two years after Nick’s death, Joe was invited to be a preferred walk-on at Penn State, the university of his choice. He ended up playing center and was the first freshman walk-on to start in a game. Ironically, that first game was two years to the day that Nick died.
“Joe had an amazing football career at Penn State and after graduation, was recruited to play with the Indianapolis Colts,” Mr. Iorio said.
“While we as a family were still struggling with our grief, Joe’s experience at Penn State gave us something wonderful to enjoy especially knowing this was exactly what Nick wanted for his brother. This became a time of healing for us all,” said Mrs. Iorio.
The Iorios now spend their winters in Arizona close to their son Joe and his family. The Iorios travel to Angola, Ind. to their lake home in the summer and spend much of their time in Columbus, Ohio with their son Tim and his family.
“Even though the boys live far apart, this way we can spend time with all of our grandchildren, which is a great joy,” Mrs. Iorio said.
“Many positive strides have been made in the past 25 years, but there is so much more that needs to be done. We must start being better at recognizing the signs to better help those before they attempt suicide. And we must address the gun violence issue facing us today. We trust our book will shine a light on these issues and hopefully provoke positive conversation and action,” the Iorios agreed.