Footprints in the sand: Remembering Nate at his best

July 7, 2020

Footprints in the sand - Nathan Bates Carnevale, 27, of Rehoboth Beach took his own life on the morning of Monday, June 29, 2020.” Nate’s family, his parents Dave and Nancy and sister Claire (living in New Zealand), elected courage over confidential in a succinctly written first sentence in Nate’s obituary. I knew by late that Monday night what had happened, as did many other friends connected to the family. I also know the numbing impact of sudden loss, as do many others, yet none of it is relatable. Families go it alone with community backup. “I remember people at their best” – it’s not a writing tool but a recollection of focused moments I  imprint on my brain. The summer of 2006, a series of age-group distance runs at the Junior Lifeguard Olympics on the Baltimore Avenue beach. The harsh sun of a hot day dropped out to the west. I knew I had the photo, just had to locate it and hope it was in focus. It was Nate, a tall and athletic, good-looking blond beach kid leading a talented field that included Kaleb Lemaire, who was tearing it up running 5Ks that summer. I can see a face showing little strain running a sub-five-minute mile in wet sand. I can smell the salt air. I see the footprints. I remember Tim Bamforth, who coached Nate on the Seashore Striders team, just smiling and shaking his head saying, “Damn, that boy Carnevale can run.” Nate graduated from Cape in 2011. Injuries plagued him. He just couldn’t stay healthy in high school. He was athletically suited for cross country, soccer,  basketball and lacrosse, just so much talent, but it never popped. Lemaire went on to win multiple state wrestling titles at Caesar Rodney. Nate’s late grandfather Ben Carnevale is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Ben played at NYU and was on a 1934 national championship team. Ben was a coach at North Carolina and the Naval Academy. Nate graduated from James Madison, just as his dad Dave had. He was set to begin a master’s program at Wesley in August. Suicide is an override of the self-preservation instinct; it reveals an underlying mental illness. “Nice kid” and “sweet person” are words people use to describe Nate. So young and such a sad story – there is no getting away from it. There is no explanation leading to an understanding, just the recognition that we wish we could have helped. I will always see Nate as a 13-year-old running where the sand meets the sea. The sky is golden, he is trekking for home, leading a pack of runners. He is neither ecstatic or euphoric, just a kid in the moment. He is a gracious sportsman; it is in his genes. 

Kiltdown Man - Piltdown Man was a fraudulent fossil discovered in 1953, thought at the time to be the missing link in human evolution. Henry Tremper is a banker who also works in event management. Henry knows how to do stuff. He is out-of-bounds cool, from his hard hat and sunglasses to scarf and gloves and Carhartt kilt with snap pockets and pouches. I can’t tell you all the secrets Henry revealed about wearing a kilt all day at a major event like Firefly, but in a matching test, chafing matches with vaseline. Here he is shown at the Phase One 5K July 4 at Hudson Fields in Milton. 

Catholic school names - I went to high school at Bishop Egan in the Philadelphia Catholic League. I had no idea who Egan was and still don’t. All the schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese were named after bishops, archbishops, monsignors, cardinals, popes and saints. I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of them because no one told us and there was no Google. I lived in the Neshaminy Public School District close to Neshaminy Road, which was near Neshaminy Creek, which ran past the Neshaminy Mall, next to Neshaminy State Park. Now I have Google, so I’m going to search it out like Flint McCullough on “Wagon Train.” Neshaminy’s mascot is the Redskins. The district spent $400,000 in 2019 researching and defending the name, which is associated with the Lenni-Lenape Indians. My nephew Mike is a Neshaminy grad, as is Bill Vergantino, former UD quarterback, and James Franklin, Penn State football coach. Cape Henlopen is a spit of beach where the bay meets the ocean. The Vikings were marauding plunderers and pillagers, but that’s a Norse of a different color. 

Snippets -  Kevin Smith is now in place and working as Cape’s athletic director. Josh Chubb moved from vice principal at Sussex Consortium to Cape High. Josh is a first cousin to Alex and Booter Ellis of Delmar. Football coaches at Laurel called Josh “Biletnikoff” for his talent catching the football. “He was also my son’s catechism teacher,” said former coach Paul Kmetz. Josh played in the Blue-Gold All-Star game. He also played at Juniata and coached at Lawrence College at Stonybrook and briefly at Cape. Catching balls and saving souls is the way the Chubster rolls. Go on now, git! 


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