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Student's friends remember 'everybody's big brother'

May 2, 2005
by Mariana Minaya, Staff Writer
© 2005 Diamondback Online

Scrawled onto the board nailed in the doorway of the charred and gutted Princeton Avenue house, a note reminds passersby of how much Michael Anthony Scrocca was loved.

The 22-year-old finance major known by friends for his honesty and spontaneity died in the early morning fire Saturday. At home in Branchburg, N.J., and at the university, friends and family dealt with a void once filled with Scrocca’s vibrant personality.

“Scrocca, I love you and you’ll never be forgotten. Always in our hearts. Love always, Yonkers,” the note reads in black marker.

For junior communication and economics major Billy Zimmer, Scrocca was one of the most honest and genuine people he knew. “He told you his opinion whether you liked it or not, and maybe that got him in trouble, but he didn’t care: No one could argue,” Zimmer said. “If you disagreed with him you were wrong, but in a funny way.”

Scrocca was to graduate in May and planned to start work immediately at Johnson & Johnson.

“Mike was the ultimate free spirit,” said Bob Kraly, a close family friend and a family spokesman. “I don’t know of anybody who loved life more than he did.”

Friends such as Zimmer remembered that Scrocca lost an arm wrestling match only once in his life and never turned down a dare.

Junior criminology and criminal justice and psychology major Rob Tilley hung out with Scrocca just hours before the fire. “He’s unlike anyone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” Tilley said. “He was just full of life. There should be a thousand Mikes.”

Everyone knew him, Zimmer said, and he was everyone’s friend. Scrocca’s friends drove for up to four hours from eight different states to his family home in New Jersey to offer their support after the fire, Kraly said.

“You were close with him automatically,” Zimmer said. “If you hung out with him you were friends.” Zimmer said that for him and his group of friends, Scrocca was more of a brother than just a regular friend. “Mike was everybody’s big brother,” Kraly said.

Zimmer said Scrocca was always ready to get in the car for spur-of-the-moment road trips or other unplanned adventures. “He was open to doing anything fun,” Zimmer said. “You wouldn’t have to ask him twice; he’d already be running toward the car. Every time we hung out with the kid it was a fun day.”

Zimmer can’t remember a single occasion where he didn’t see Scrocca smiling since he met him pledging for Pi Kappa Phi in spring 2003. When the fraternity was thrown off the campus shortly thereafter, Scrocca and his friends were only brought closer, Zimmer said.

Scrocca was a star teammate on the intramural baseball, football and volleyball teams he played on with his friends. Zimmer said he livened up the games by playfully taunting the other teams, announcing and completing interception passes and constantly trying to spike in volleyball.

Just three weeks ago, Scrocca had gone to see a series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles in which one of his favorite sports teams, the Orioles, won, Kraly said. “He was happy as could be,” Kraly said.

Zimmer said Scrocca was always borrowing his friends’ clothes because he was too busy to do his own laundry, except for his prized San Francisco 49ers Jerry Rice jersey, which he would often wear. “He wore it like it was brand new,” Zimmer said.

Sports had been an important part of Scrocca’s life since his childhood in New Jersey, Kraly said. He moved from Greenbrook, N.J., where he was born, to Branchburg, a town full of farms and wildlife before it became more populated, Kraly said.

His dad coached him in Little League, he would play baseball leisurely with his brother Brian, 21. Kraly said Scrocca was one of the best players on the high school baseball team, and Zimmer said he was good enough to walk onto the Terp team but Scrocca decided it was too big of a time commitment.

When it came time to choosing a college, Scrocca knew he wanted a big school and loved this university’s campus.

After graduation, he dreamed of one day working on large mergers, Zimmer said. He interned for Johnson & Johnson the past two summers and had landed a job traveling with the internal auditing department at the company.

Scrocca loved to travel, Kraly said. He visited several places in the Caribbean with family and friends, and when he went to Spain for a semester, he made sure to travel all around Europe.

Scrocca and his father were extremely close, as was the entire family, Kraly said.

He would have graduated in three weeks and started work immediately, Zimmer said.

For friends, the irony in this terrible tragedy will be saying goodbye to a person who was said to have loved and enjoyed life so much. “He loved every minute of every day,” Zimmer said. “He was always happy. He always had the biggest smile."

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