This testament is written on behalf of my lifelong friend, Angie Gioiosa.
Those who knew Angie and me know that we had a special bond that began in the fall of 1967 when as an eighth-grade junior high student, Angie gave me the extraordinary opportunity to train and compete with the Altoona High School cross country team.
Few know the real story behind this. Angie had to overcome incredible resistance to accomplish this. The school district had "administrative issues" - insurance, early release from school for practice and meets, parental and medical releases, transportation to and from Keith Junior High School to Altoona High School to Logan etc., so it is a wonder this actually happened.
School district issues were not the only hurdles Angie overcame.
The PIAA (after negotiations with athletic director Jack Ray) reluctantly agreed to allow me to practice with the team but would not allow me to participate in meets without the consent of the opposing teams' coach and athletic director. Initially, Angie and Jack worked these PIAA issues out with many schools.
Then, midway through the season, one school refused to allow me to run in a meet, and later a second school agreed that I could compete but only if I agreed to start 30 seconds after the main race began.
These developments were unacceptable to Angie and Jack.
They removed these barriers of competition by networking with several school districts having young athletes that could potentially follow my path.
A unified petition was then made to the PIAA to allow junior high students to participate in high school athletic programs where the associated Junior High School had no equivalent program available.
In the fall of 1968, the PIAA agree to allow ninth grade junior high students the opportunity to compete in high school athletic programs if the junior high school had no equivalent sports program available. Angie and Jack were successful in giving all young Pennsylvania athletes the opportunity to compete and succeed.
This remarkable achievement is only a very small part of Angie's enormous legacy to all the students, athletes, parents, the local running community and to all other young Pennsylvania student-athletes.
A friend recently reminded me that Angie's dedication to providing this new opportunity for Pennsylvania youth was the only reason that in 1968 I became the first junior high student under PIAA sanction to compete in high school athletics, to earn a high school varsity letter and further became the first junior high athlete under PIAA sanction to become a high school district champion and eventual AAHS record breaker. All this opportunity was because of Angie.
But Angie's real legacy is not limited to just his athletic greatness or to a few athletes he trained and coached to great success, but to all of the athletes who gained endurance, mental strength and the confidence to face challenges.
In 1973, I had the idea to start the Fourth of July race in Altoona.
I discussed this with my dad, and we decided to approach the Altoona YMCA to see if they would sponsor the race. The YMCA board agreed to be sponsors, provided that we recruited Angie to coordinate the initial organization process.
The first race was held in 1974. This race is an annual community sensation and is another chapter in Angie's legacy.
I recently participated in the creation of a CD about the inception, evolution and continuity of this race, but one fact that was not discussed during the taping is that, during the organization process, Angie was adamant that we had equal opportunities for competition by males and females and for all age groups.
Angie was way ahead of his time - insisting on equal rights for women and youth years before society did. Decades later, public schools and colleges are now required to give women's athletics equal treatment.
Many will remember Angie as a teacher, coach, athlete and friend.
I also recognize Angie as a determined humanitarian who promoted and provided healthy competitive opportunities for our youth and adults.
Many thousands of students and runners have benefited by participation in races Angie helped organize.
Remember that Angie gave to our community in many ways besides education and athletics, as evident by his decades of weekly service to local senior citizens by volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels.
Angie may be gone but he won't be forgotten. Every time I assist organizers with a race and get to help race participants, I am following my mentor's teachings and embracing my inner Angie.
John Foreman resides in Altoona.