Lawrence Edward Farinetti Sr., a retired steelworker whose love for fishing propelled him into advocacy for Back River, died at a local hospital Aug. 23 from complications of lung cancer. He was 77.
Mr. Farinetti was perhaps best known for his work with the Back River Restoration Committee, leading the organization’s very first rockfishing tournament on the river and growing the tradition during his 11 years at the helm.
Early on, Susan Farinetti, his wife, recalled fewer than ten fishing boats participating in a year. But the tournament eventually burgeoned to 80 boats, becoming a major fundraiser for the restoration committee, a nonprofit focused on cleaning the river and advocating for its recovery from environmental degradation.
His health declining, Mr. Farinetti once asked his wife if she thought the tournament would be named in his memory after he died. On Saturday, the organization honored Farinetti at the first tournament held since his passing, said Desiree Greaver, project manager for the Restoration Committee, and the tournament will carry his name.
“It’s forever in memory of Larry Farinetti,” Ms. Greaver said. “Every year going forward.”
The organization will also collect donations in Mr. Farinetti’s name, to go toward college scholarships for Back River Restoration Committee interns, Ms. Greaver said.
Mr. Farinetti was born December 21, 1944 in Chase, Maryland to Charles Farinetti Sr., a steelworker, and Helen Moore Farinetti, a homemaker. Growing up along the Bird River, Mr. Farinetti was frequently out on the water, alongside his “big Italian family,” Mrs. Farinetti said. Mr. Farinetti had six siblings.
“They were always fishing and crabbing, because they would have crab feasts for all their relatives at their house,” Mrs. Farinetti said.
Mr. Farinetti was a 1963 graduate of Kenwood High School, where he participated in wrestling, his wife said. Mr. Farinetti was also an avid baseball and football player, she said.
After high school, Mr. Farinetti went to work at Bethlehem Steel, where he served as a crane millwright, and later became a union representative before his retirement in 1998, Mrs. Farinetti said.
When Mrs. Farinetti met her husband for the first time in 1980, he had two children from a previous marriage, which ended in divorce. He was serving as an umpire for a women’s league softball game, and Mrs. Farinetti was a player. She was drawn to his sense of humor, she says.
The couple moved to Hyde Park, and lived along Back River, Mrs. Farinetti said. During frequent fishing trips on the river, Mr. Farinetti grew concerned about the river’s health. When a group of neighbors came together to found the Restoration Committee in the late 2000s, Mr. Farinetti volunteered to be the chairman of the board, his wife said.
Ultimately, though, the rockfishing tournament would be his “baby,” Ms. Greaver said.
Mr. Farinetti became a dedicated volunteer for the tournament. He spent numerous hours gathering sponsors, finding participants and ensuring that the event was a joyous party for all involved, his wife said.
“Before computer registration, he was running and meeting people, different places to get their applications and it was very busy,” Mrs. Farinetti said.
After his death, plenty of fishermen shared their memories of Mr. Farinetti. One shared that his son wasfeeling frustrated at a rockfishing tournament until Mr. Farinetti boarded the boat and gave him a pep talk. The boy ended up catching the largest fish in the childrens’ division that year, Mrs. Farinetti said.
Volunteering became a big part of Mr. Farinetti’s life, his wife said. He also volunteered his time for the Sons of Italy and Centurion Lodge, and served as treasurer of the Hyde Park Improvement Association.
In May, the Farinettis celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows during a trip to their timeshare property in Acapulco, Mexico, Mrs. Farinetti said. Acapulco was a cherished vacation destination for the couple for 30 years, Mrs. Farinetti said.
“He would go fishing and we would have fish fry parties and invite everybody in the condominium to come,” she recalled.
While on vacation, Mr. Farinetti also loved to teach children about his hobbies, including fishing and hunting, his wife said.
“Larry was an uncle to everybody, to everybody’s kids,” Mrs. Farinetti said. “They just called him Uncle Larry.”
Mr. Farinetti had a vibrant personality, and would always speak his mind, his wife said.
“You always knew where you stood with Larry,” Mrs. Farinetti said.
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Mr. Farinetti loved joking with other volunteers at the Back River Restoration Committee, Ms. Greaver said.
“Every time I went over there: ‘Hey, how are you doing?’” Ms. Greaver said. “And if I didn’t say hi to him, he gave me a hard time.”
At a recent board meeting for the organization, Ms. Greaver didn’t hear Mr. Farinetti’s greeting, and he joked that she’d been ignoring her.
“He wasn’t afraid to tell you his opinion. And a lot of times it was pretty colorful — and that’s just how Larry was. And he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”
Even after his cancer diagnosis in 2019, Mr. Farinetti was a frequent participant at events for the Restoration Committee, Ms. Greaver said, including trash clean-up days.
“He was proud of this river. He knew the beauty of the river. He loved this river,” Greaver said.
Mr. Farinetti was laid to rest in the Holly Hill Memorial Gardens in late August. In addition to his wife, Mr. Farinetti is survived by his son Lawrence Edward Farinetti Jr. of Holiday, Florida, and his companion Dawn Vargo of Perry Hall, Maryland; daughter Lisa Farinetti Anderson and her husband Derek Anderson, of Zurich, Switzerland; and grandchildren Jeremy Farinetti, Emma Anderson and Ethan Anderson. Mr. Farinetti’s siblings are Charlotte Daubert, Charles J. Farinetti Jr. and Maria Combs, all of whom live in Florida, and Francis J. Farinetti, of Chase, Maryland. Mr. Farinetti was pre-deceased by his sisters Helen Schein and Catherine Budzynski.