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Montvale native weighs in...

April 21 2006 at 9:43 PM
Anonymous  (Login rottydaddy)

 
I was posting in another forum today; the discussion was about the recent case involving some teens allegedly plotting their own little tribute to the Columbine HS massacre... I thought of Harry, and mentioned the DeLaRoche family as a case in point regarding "the best of homes", etc. Haven't though about this for a long time, so I googled the name and found this site.
I moved from Montvale in '74, having just finished 5th grade at Fieldstone (divorce, etc.). I grew up in the same neighborhood as Harry, Ronnie, and Eric- Eric was a friend of mine. We didn't stay in touch when I moved away, although I had seen him not long before that, while (if I remember correctly) I was in town visiting another friend, and making the rounds with my mother while she looked up some of her friends from the neighborhood. He was a good kid as I recall, one of the few playmates I'd had who never turned on me; it had been pretty cool bumping into him and catching up, and it was horrible to hear what had happened just a short while after that chance meeting. I'll never forget the day my mother got that call from a friend from the old neighborhood... she had the strangest look on her face as she hung up the phone. Still gives me the willies just thinking about it.
This is the first I've heard of Harry's claim that Ronnie was the real culprit, and I don't know what to make of it. I feel a little reticent about this movie, but I'm actually curious to see and hear Harry's story as told in the interview.
I have no theory as to the veracity of his story, and my impressions of that family are those of a child, seen through the mist of over 30 years... but I remember this much: as much as my old man was hard on me and my brother, I recall feeling more sorry for those boys than I did for myself. My lasting impression of Harry Sr. was that he was very hard on them. the word "ramrod" springs to mind. If that offends anyone, I'm sorry, but that's how I remember him. I can't recall anything specific, but I remember not liking him at all, and his relationship with his sons lacked warmth, to say the least. They feared him, more than I feared my own father, i think.
Mrs. D. was OK in my book- I often accompanied my brother on his paper route, and when we were at their place to pick up the Sunday Record (the supplements and comics were added to the paper in people's garages; my mother took a turn at this in our garage for awhile, too- I don't recall how that worked, exactly)... I remember her as being genuinely friendly and welcoming. She seemed to carry some heavy burdens, but cheerfully. She loved those boys, and they minded her with warmth as well as respect.
I didn't know Ronnie or Harry well, but my brother was Ronnie's age and they got along pretty well, even though my poor brother was something of a social liability as a friend in that little social circle. He carried some anger with him, I could tell, but I think being the middle son, he had not had as much pressure on him as Harry.
Harry? Damaged goods. Even as a kid, I could tell that. I didn't like him, but I also pitied him. My only vivid memory of him is of him crying after somebody had beat him up or something like that- he was humiliated and enraged; it was painful to witness. I wasn't exactly Joe Popular either, so I could relate. Sometimes I think he just needed a break- he seemed to try very hard to make his father proud and to be respected by his peers, and his frustration was very evident. He didn't handle his anger very well, although he wasn't a bully with us smaller kids, as far as I remember. I wasn't around for those critical teen years, but I can imagine what high school was like for him. And the Citadel? You've got to be kidding me! Why, why on Earth do so many parents think such Spartan suffering will heal a wounded child and make a confident man out of him? He definitely did not belong there. I understand the intended purpose of the hazing, but as in so many cases, he should've been sent home; it must've been obvious he wasn't going to cut it, at least not until he found himself on his own somehow. That whole deal has never made sense to me. Ostensibly, military academies are supposed to find and nurture leaders, but there seem to be only two other choices available for cadets: leave as a mindless weapon, eager to be a hero for whatever cause suits your masters, or crawl away as a basket case. Withdrawing with honor does not seem to be an option, and it's disgraceful, IMHO. And all too often, the parents will not accept such a choice... that might've been the last straw for Harry.
Every time I've thought about Harry since the murders, I've assumed he was responsible, but despite my not-exactly-liberal views on murder and its punishment, I always had very mixed feelings about this case. When I first got the news, I was both angry at him and sorry for him. If it were proven to me that Ronnie did the deed, I'd feel the same way. He grew up in the same household, after all... if he did start the mayhem,maybe he wanted to help Harry, or maybe he couldn't bear the though of waiting for his own inevitable showdown with his father... only Harry knows.
It's very easy for those of us who are mentally and emotionally sound to claim that no matter how bad things got, we'd never let our rage get the better of us like that, but having seen madness and suicide (though thankfully not murder) in my own family, I can confidently say that the line between sanity and insanity is very fine indeed, and although usually tangled together, madness and evil are definitely two very different things, and the intensity of familial bonds can bring about terrible emotions and unspeakable actions.
No Hollywood exploitation can spoil my many good memories of Montvale in those days (the end of an era in this country, that's for sure), and this is a story that-if done truthfully and respectfully- should be told, for the benefit of families and communities everywhere. So I guess I'm OK with the idea of it... I'll have to see the whole thing to pass judgement.

 
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Another Semi-Anonymous Person :)
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Re: Montvale native weighs in...

May 1 2006, 11:56 PM 

I remember as well, and I probably knew you, too.
I used to live in the house directly across the street from the De La Roche's, though we moved several years before 1977 - in 1970, if I remember correctly. I was young as well, but I knew all of them.

Montvale was a nice place for a kid - I remember going down to the middle of town and getting a stocking full of goodies from Santa Claus every Christmas eve.
I remember walking to school, going across the railroad tracks, past Abe's, Huff's, the icehouse, and past the fire house.
I remember going down past the end of the next road down the hill (after Forest), and leaving a penny on the railroad tracks, to see if it would flatten it. I never did see/find a flattened penny, tho....
I remember the slide at the old school - and the (big) splinters from its wooden sides - and the broken arm I got from the thing.
I remember climbing trees, birthday parties, and all those other things that young boys do.

Anyhow, I digress, tho the above will probably identify me to some. Even so, I wish to remain anonymous, and I am not really interested in helping with this "project".

I read the book some years ago, after my wife spotted it in a used-book store...and, to be honest, I didn't think much of it. Some stuff was fairly accurate, but much was not. As I remember the book; it treated Harry Senior rather harshly. Well, he was hard - I never remember liking him much - but he was not overly different from all of the other fathers there at the time. I remember their mother as being nice and generous with all of the neighborhood children. And yes, I remember Harry, jr. I remember his favored sport seemed to be pestering the younger kids i.e., the rest of us.

My impressions of the case has never changed. From the beginning, I was (and still am) sure that Harry was solely responsible for the murder of his family. The Ronnie story probably makes him feel better, but it doesn't change my mind.

Please, if you DO make this film, PLEASE don't make it a 'blame the victim' rant.

 
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walter jahn
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I Remember

January 7 2007, 7:16 PM 

I as both of you lived and went to all the same schools.I lived on Ladik Pl. and had to walk to school also .Harry was a friend of mine who once or twice helped me work on a car. We used to hang out at the Rices house and watch Jim paint.I was in the Seven Eleven the morning of the murder having coffee like we did almost every day.My brother was also a paperboy who was turned away that morning.I just found out about the movie yesterday as I was searching I found this.I moved after High School and joined the military.I came back after Twenty years recently and couldnt beleave the changes,so i went to Davies Locker where we spent many Fridays had a few bears left and never looked back.I used to love that old town and the people,I am sure that I knew both of you.Anyone out there that knows me give me a shout Walter Jahn

 
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