PALM DESERT – Gregory Friscia’s life was full and the 17-year-old was full of life.
Honors student, Eagle Scout, multi-sport athlete, cherished son, beloved brother, animal lover, the Xavier Prep High School student was one of those teens whom others aspire to be.
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So as the Xavier community and the Friscia family gathers to celebrate Greg’s life on Monday at Mass during a school assembly, and remember how he lived every minute to the fullest, there will be tears as they reflect from a year ago. That’s when Greg’s life was cut short by a tragic skateboarding accident. Following a week in a medically-induced coma, the happy-go-lucky senior died at Desert Regional Medical Center.
But is it how Greg lived that will lift the spirit of the Saints.
Just a week before his accident, he spoke to a classmate about what he planned to discuss during an upcoming school retreat. Just about everything in his life was perfect, Greg noted: “My life has been great. My family is amazing. My parents are together. Nothing crazy has happened. I have great friends. I love my dogs. I just have an amazing life.”
Those are just a few of the thoughts that have been compiled in a memory book by brother Matt, a junior at UCLA and a Xavier Prep graduate. At Christmas, as a gift to his parents, David and Karen of Rancho Mirage, he gathered stories from Greg’s friends, classmates, teammates, coaches and many others on how he touched their lives.
“When my brother was in the hospital, everyone was coming up with stories to tell and we were all laughing, remembering,” said Matt, who had more than 100 pages printed with numerous photos. “My Mom said at that time that someone should write all these things down. There were so many stories. That’s when I came up with the idea.
“I emailed his friends or used Facebook, kept bugging them and put it all together.”
It’s a touching tribute to his younger brother that includes stories about his favorite Coachella band, late night walks with his beloved dogs, Malyshka and Lucca, his family vacations abroad and to Hawaii, his school, sports, guitar and piano lessons, and anything – and everything – that Greg enjoyed in his 17 years.
One was from Xavier teacher and water polo coach Pavol Valovic.
“We are who we are today because of Greg,” Valovic wrote, alluding to a water polo game where Greg needed stitches, had to sit out the remainder of the game because of it, but refused to leave the sidelines. “A young man who sacrificed his own comfort and well being. He showed us what it’s like to sacrifice. He left a mark on us and changed our lives forever. He is still with us every day and every game. I am sure he is happy seeing the boys working so hard and loving each other so much. Thank you Greg for changing our lives.”
Xavier principal Chris Alling said the school will assemble in the gym for morning Mass and celebrate Greg’s life with his family. Greg’s name will live through a scholarship that has been established and will be linked this week to the Saints’ website – xavierprep.org. The Friscia’s will award two scholarships to a deserving male and female scholar-athlete graduating from Xavier this May, Alling said.
“We will show the students the website and my comments will also, hopefully, remind us that great people like Greg remind us all of the need to live our lives with great intention and energy,” said Alling. “It will tell us what we may forget: What his favorite color was, what foods he liked, where he liked to vacation and what music he loved, but what we will all always agree on is that Greg’s life taught us to live our lives with intention and to use our God-given talents to make the world a better place.”
A longtime family friend wrote in the book that she will remember that “G-Man was the little brother to all of us.”
Another noted he’ll remember Greg as “always so happy, always smiling, always enjoying life.” He said he couldn’t wait until they could get together and share more stories.
On Monday, they will do that.
And, Matt Friscia added that although it’s been a long, emotional year, he’s comforted by the outpouring his family has received.
“It’s been a tough year,” he said. “But it’s been easier because of the support and kindness we’ve received, even from people we’ve never met. Just random acts of kindness. People who knew Greg.”