I knew that there would be a large group of people at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church this past Saturday, March 5. But I had no idea just how crowded the service would be. It seemed as if the whole community turned out. It was difficult to even enter the Church, as the long lines of people spilled out into the street. Many townsfolk were present and a great number of young peers from all over the Hudson Valley. The majority of them knew Ryan Molnar, the 20 year old Phoenicia man, who died from an overdose of drugs on February 29. Many others did not know him, but came out of respect for one of their own, taken so young.
I arrived about 20 minutes before the 2 p.m. service was scheduled to begin, and it was next to impossible to get into the Church. I managed to squeeze my way in and find a seat. Father Raphael Iannone opened the service speaking about the plight of drug addiction running rampant “right here in our own town of Phoenicia.” Father Raphael spoke about the crucifixion and made an appropriate enough analogy of Jesus being nailed to the cross with needles instead of nails. “We have to support the 212 group (Rt. 212 Coalition), our neighbors. We have to stop selling to our kids a false future, rock and roll, sex and drugs, that’s not where it’s at,” Father Raphael asserted.
I don’t know about the “rock and roll and sex” part, but I understand the message that Father Raphael was trying to get across.
There were several people associated with the Rt. 212 Coalition, maybe the best thing going right now in the fight against substance abuse locally, at the Church, including Dr. Maya Hambright, medical director of Institute for Family Health’s Samaritan Village Clinic, a drug treatment clinic in Ellenville. I had met Dr. Hambright just a few days earlier in a professional setting. When I walked over to her in the Church, tears were streaming from her eyes. I could see the utter despair and frustration stemming from heroin’s latest victim.
As I approached Dr. Hambright I saw another familiar face, ‘Y,’ one of the people that I had interviewed for my story on heroin last week in Woodstock Times. It was really nice to see him there, straight and sober, paying his respects to Ryan, who was a friend of his. Y knew most of the young people there. Saturday was a special day for him, too, as he was celebrating 60 days of being clean and sober. He’s done a strong, tough job in transforming his life in the past two months
As we stood in front of the Church after the service talking about solutions to the problem, there was a scene with Ryan’s mom, Sandy pointing to one of the young men who came to pay respects. “That’s him, why don’t you arrest him? My son would not be dead right now if it were not for him,” she cried as several police officers went over to the young man, a friend of Ryan’s and who Ryan’s mom accused of supplying her son with the drugs that took his life. The police officers searched the young man and found nothing. He was asked to leave. According to the young man’s Facebook page, “I’m fuckin heart broken and I feel like shit, like I go to a funeral to pay my respects to a friend and I get accused of dealing him drugs and I’ve never done that and he was the one that got them for me… He was one of my best friends and I get shit on in front of 80 people. Just more motivation to stay clean, thanks but no thanks, this is how fucked up our world is. OMW (on my way) to a meeting. Suck it people!!!”
As this unpleasant scene unfolded, I turned to Y. “That guy would be crazy to come to a funeral carrying drugs, wouldn’t he?” I asked. He replied, “Not at all. Most of the people here are probably carrying. The last time that I went to one of these about a half dozen people came over to me telling me that if I needed to get high, they got me.”
Of course, this day coming to a funeral for a friend lost to drug addiction has a different meaning for Y. He walked around speaking to as many people as he could, conveying his condolences and hugging many of the younger crowd that was there. I took a good look around and put on my ‘junkie eyes,’ something you never lose even after 40 some years of sobriety, a sixth sense as it were, to tell if a person is using or holding drugs. All of a sudden, through a different lense, I saw many that could be carrying heroin and even selling it if a kid needed someone to “get them.”
At the Parish Hall where everybody assembled after the service, I walked over to Sandy, Ryan’s mother who was speaking to a group of about eight kids. She was much calmer now. “It could be you next time,” she told them. Monday night she posted a moving message to the kids on her Facebook page: “To everyone, I want all you to know, I lost my best friend in the whole world. He was my life and I know I was his. How do I teach you kids to not do this to your parents? I don’t know how I can go on. But I will continue to fight this hole in my heart that I can never get back. Help me, help Ryan Molnar and for God’s sake help yourselves. — Sandy Molnar.”
Ryan S. Molnar, 20 of Main St died Monday February 29, 2016 at his residence. He was born February 2, 1996 son of Steven Molnar and Sandra Hofmeister Molnar. Ryan enjoyed the working outdoors, and was a talented landscaper for Green Scape Co. He was a snow boarding enthusiast, and was also focused on personal fitness and weight training. He enjoyed watching his New England Patriot’s football team.
Surviving are his parents, sister Cara, grandfather Harold and Barbara Hofmeister, uncles and aunts: Harold & Angela, Eric & Wendy Hofmeister, and Joe Molnar, cousins: Harold, Morgan, and Lucas.
A Memorial Service to Celebrate the Life of Ryan was held March 5 at the St. Francis de Sales Church Main St. Phoenicia with Fr. Raphael Iannone as celebrant. Arrangements were under the direction of the E. B. Gormley Funeral Home Main St. Phoenicia. You may share a condolence with the family on Ryan’s Memorial Page at www.gormleyfuneralhome.com