Brian Mecca of South Orange died on October 26, his 64th birthday. The cause was complications due to diabetes.
“He fought hard all year to get better,” his former wife Lisa Hershey wrote. “He left this earth peacefully, surrounded by those who loved him.” Hershey and Mecca’s twin daughters Annabelle and Lily, age 16, were at Mecca’s side when he passed. “The girls were able to see him and say goodbye,” said Hershey. “There were no two people on this earth that he loved more.”
Although Mecca and Hershey were divorced, they remained “very good friends,” says Hershey, who provided daily care to Mecca in his final months and days.
Born and raised in Rye, NY, Mecca was a star football player at Archbishop Stepinac High School. After high school, he pursued his passions for writing and theater.
“He was a sometimes writer, poet, playwright, actor, and always, one of the smartest people I’ve ever known,” Mecca’s friend John Newcott wrote on Facebook. “Well read and quite opinionated, some of the most thought-provoking and inspiring conversations I’ve ever had were with Mr. Mecca, often joined by my dear friend of 50 years, Doyle Cook,” and the “brilliant actor Keith Randolph Smith.”
Hershey and Mecca met around 1990, when he directed her in an Off-Off-Broadway play.
“He had this whole crew of guys he was very close with,” says Hershey.
Mecca found lifelong employment with New York University Athletics where he started as a part-time weight room supervisor in 1990 and ultimately became the full-time Operations Assistant in 1996, a role he served in up to his death.
“Brian was not only a great colleague to work with, he was a friend,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Carl Villanueva in a post on the NYU Athletics site. “He was a mentor to the full-time staff as well as to the student employees. His often-used phrase was ‘just tell me what you want and I will get it done.’ He was incredibly friendly and helpful. Brian spoke often about his twin daughters, Annabelle and Lily, and always enjoyed when his NYU family of former student-athletes and student employees would return to the Coles Sports Center to say hello. Brian will be sorely missed.”
Hershey says that Mecca was remarkable for his endless curiosity and his passion for knowledge.
Hershey termed Mecca self-educated: “He only read for knowledge. He constantly read, everything from Shakespeare, history, politics, biography and literature. He loved film and listened to music non-stop. He always wanted to improve his mind and immerse himself in the arts. He passed on his love of learning to the girls. That being said, his other lifelong passions were The Mets and The Beatles, sometimes watching and listening to both at the same time.”
Mecca was pursuing an undergraduate degree in History at NYU at the time of his death. “Annabelle is interested in history and Lily wants to go to NYU because of him. He loved working for a university,” says Hershey.
Mecca and Hershey lived in Brooklyn before moving in 2007 to Maplewood where the girls attended Prospect Preschool, Seth Boyden School and Maplewood Middle School. Both are now in 10th Grade.
Mecca also penned some articles for Maplewood Patch, including a tribute to his father who was among the U.S. forces to land in Normandy on D-Day. He wrote, “I just wanted to remember my dad and all those who fought that day. It forever taught me about leadership and overcoming overwhelming adversity.” Mecca added, “Someday I will bring my daughters, Lily and Annabelle, to swim in these waters of the now peaceful English Channel. I think my father would like that.”
Mecca’s devotion to his daughters was noticed by many.
“Brian was such a great dad,” says Newcott. “He loved his girls more than anything. He wore fatherhood well. My heart was always full when in their presence, and again, that just wasn’t often enough. Mr. Mecca was a kind and gentle man with the true soul of a poet. I will miss my friend. I loved him deeply. This one really hurts.”
Mecca also remained close with his childhood friends, the “Rye Midland Avenue Crew,” throughout this entire life.
Chris Albino, who now lives in Monroe, CT, says of Mecca, “We were joined at the hip from about 11 to 21 growing up in Rye. We always stayed in touch and got back together now and then to hit the ball around or just walk through Rye. Godspeed Brian. You’ve suffered long enough. Time to rest. I’ll never forget our football games in the snow on Sylvan Ave., speedball at Midland School, home-run derby, hours of electric football and tabletop hockey. But most importantly, how we held each other up through bad times and you were always there to listen and comfort. I will miss you buddy.”
Mecca is survived by his daughters Annabelle and Lily, his former wife Lisa Hershey, his sister Joan Jenkins and her husband David Jenkins of Rye, NY, and his many Mitchell and Mecca cousins.
He was predeceased by his parents Madeline (Haviland) Mecca and Joseph Mecca of Rye, NY.
Mecca will be memorialized in a private service; however, a Zoom memorial is being planned in the coming weeks and a public in-person memorial will be held in the spring when it is safe to do so. Mecca’s ashes will be buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rye Brook, NY with his mother.
Visit the Jacob Holle Funeral Home website for more information or to write a tribute: