Rubida ’05 ‘Never Quit’

By
Monday, January 31, 2005

Lawrence William Rubida ’05 passed away at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday after a nine-month battle with an aggressive form of bone cancer. He was 23 years old.

“He had a lot of friends and loved life,” said football Head Coach Phil Estes. “He really was one of the guys that loved to stick up for the little guy. He really felt that if he believed in something, he would stand up for what his values were.”

“On the field, if you could have 11 Lawrence Rubidas on either side of the ball you would win every game,” said former teammate Brent Grinna ’04. “He didn’t allow you to ever take a day off. He was no-nonsense all the time. He never lost that drive to win.”

Rubida’s drive and determination helped him both on the football field, where he earned second team All-Ivy status in 2002, and in the classroom, where he concentrated in political science and psychology. He was also a loyal friend – always honest, upfront and willing to do anything for those to whom he was close.

“One of the biggest things to me was the kind of friend he was,” said former teammate Dan Startsman ‘02.5. “The spring break of his junior year … Lawrence just popped in his car and drove out to see me (in Ohio). That’s one of those things that just touch me. He gave up his spring break and came out here just because he hadn’t seen me in a while.”

Startsman spent nearly two weeks in January with Rubida at his home in Arlington, Va. The two ate Chinese food and Egg McMuffins, both of which Rubida loved, and just hung out, playing video games, watching movies, but most importantly, playing cards.

“We were just doing the things he liked to do,” Startsman said. “We played rummy for hours at a time.”

Rubida was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in May 2004. He began treatment at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Back in Providence, the team formed the Lawrence Rubida Trust to help offset the enormous cost of Rubida’s treatment and raise money for further research into Ewing’s sarcoma. The trust was formally unveiled in an emotional ceremony during halftime of the Harvard game Sept. 25. The team also announced it had raised $25,000 as a starting contribution. Other Ivy League teams continued to chip in throughout the season.

In December the team started selling brown bracelets engraved with the words “Never Quit,” similar to the popular “LiveStrong” bracelets. The proceeds from the sales went toward the trust.

In the meantime Rubida had responded well to treatment, and doctors eliminated the initial tumor on his hip. But on Nov. 6, the doctors discovered another tumor, this one above the knee on his right leg. In a few days it had grown tenfold. The news got worse in mid-December when tumors were discovered in his lungs. Rubida ended his treatment and moved back to Virginia to be with his family.

“He wanted to go home,” Startsman said. “He wanted to be in his own bed in his own bedroom.”

Rubida was especially hurt by the death of his good friend Ricky Whelan ’04, who passed away Jan. 11. Although he was in a great deal of pain, Rubida made the trip up to Merion, Pa., to attend the service.

“He fought this thing for eight months and he never anticipated going to one of his friend’s funerals,” Grinna said. “He took it extremely difficultly.”

The next weekend Rubida attended the NFC championship game at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Lawrence, along with his girlfriend Kim Highlund ’04, his father, Kirk Rubida, and a few former teammates sat in a luxury box provided by Richard Dresdale ’78. According to an e-mail sent out to friends and teammates by Tim Goobic ’04, Rubida shouted “Do it for Ricky” when the Eagles ran onto the field.

The next day, Rubida’s health took a turn for the worse. The tumors in his lungs had grown to the point where he was having difficulty breathing. He checked into the Halquist Memorial Hospice near his home in Arlington. Later in the week, Estes and Offensive Line Coach Frank Sheehan flew down to Virginia.

“He looked as well as you could hope,” Estes said. “They had him upright to help him breathe. He was able to open his eyes and smile. He mumbled a few things. I am glad that we were able to say goodbye to Lawrence and tell him that he fought a good fight.”

“I’m proud that I was one of the guys that he wanted to say goodbye to,” Sheehan said. “He was in and out of consciousness, but he knew we were there. He cracked a smile. He said he knew we were coming, and he was going to wait for us.”

Rubida did not make it through the night. He passed away at 2:30 a.m., surrounded by his family and Highlund.

“All I can do about Lawrence is try to get through the grief and remember all he taught me,” Sheehan said. “He taught me a lot about myself and about coaching. I thanked him for allowing me to coach him, but he was more than a player to me.”

Even though he was in a lot of pain, Rubida still never put himself first.

“The last impression that I have of Lawrence is how at the end he continued to care for how people were feeling,” Grinna said. “He was in a lot of pain, but he always wanted to know how you were doing. His ability to care stuck with him.”

Rubida is survived by his father Kirk, his mother Sara and his sister Katherine. Services are being planned for this coming weekend in Virginia with a memorial service to be held at Brown in the next few weeks.