Dean Finocchiaro just wanted to be outdoors. As a young child, he was already skateboarding with his older brother, Anthony. Fearless, he fit right in with the boys five years older than he.
As he grew up, he came to love jumping off cliffs into water, and riding his quad bike or dirt bike around his Langhorne neighborhood.
“When he was 7 years old, I bought [him and his brother] dirt bikes for Christmas. From that point on, that was all he wanted to do,” his father, Anthony Finocchiaro, said. Laughing, he added: “If I would’ve known that, I never would’ve bought that damn dirt bike.”
For Finocchiaro, riding was more than a physical activity. The kids in the area with off-road bikes formed a tight-knit community. After he died, they were active in organizing memorials, including a gathering on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Finocchiaro played ice hockey, too. While not as serious about the sport as his brother had been, Finocchiaro was as fearless on the ice as he was in life.
“He was a crazy man on the ice,” his mother, Bonnie, said.
After graduating from Neshaminy High School, Finocchiaro went through a tough time. One of his best friends died in a motorcycle accident. It was his first experience with loss, his parents said.
In the months before he died, he took a job at Richman’s Ice Cream & Burger Co. Samantha Kaleck, Finocchiaro’s manager, trained him to be a cook, but he ended up doing much more than that. He handled customer complaints with ease and picked up extra shifts often.
“He was a presence here,” Kaleck said. “He was outstanding, very dedicated and passionate.”
After Finocchario died, one former Richman’s customer saw his photo on the news. The little girl likely was not old enough to comprehend the tragic end to his life, Kaleck said, but she told her mom she knew him. They drove to the restaurant to share a memory.
The little girl had met Finocchiaro at a customer appreciation day, when he had been working a moon bounce, Kaleck said.
The child remembered him as “the best moon bounce leader,” she recalled.
“He had a big heart,” Bonnie Finocchiaro said.
“He just enjoyed himself and he didn’t care what anyone thought,” his father said. “He did love the life that he lived.”