Ryan Baldera, 32, of Lawrence has been hailed as a hero. He died tragically after a Nov. 7 hazardous materials spill at Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington, where he was the general manager.
He leaves a wife, Jessica Marie Baldera, and their 3-month old son Hunter Ryan Baldera AKA “Daddy’s best friend.”
Baldera was a star athlete at Methuen High. At the 2006 All-State track meet, the Ranger captain placed sixth in the 300-meter hurdles and he was runner-up in the event at the MVC Meet in 40.22, which is among the top times in MHS history.
In football, he was the Rangers’ leading receiver in 2005.
His good friend, Greater Lawrence Tech golf and basketball coach Eddie Araujo, said, “He had that infectious personality. He brought a lot of positivity to a room. He made things happen. He took a positive spin to anything.”
Araujo, a baseball captain who also graduated in 2006, was rocked by the news.
He said, “I thought, ‘It can’t be true. It doesn’t make sense.’
“We had just played golf on Sunday and we were going to play again the next Saturday. I was just in his wedding (last May). The way he talked about his son, you didn’t have to ask. He’d tell you. He was very passionate about being a father.”
That winning personality kept him close with a lot of his high school friends. His wedding party included Araujo, baseball captain Steve Sharrock, three-sport captain Kevin DeMaria and current assistant football coach Ryan Dugan.
Gronk reaches out
It went beyond the high school chums. On social media, ex-Patriot great Rob Gronkowski wrote: “I know Ryan and this story is so sad. He passed away and has a 3-month-old baby. Help support his family by Swiping Up.”
WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show” did a big fundraiser. Araujo and Ryan’s sister, Nikki Tarbell, started a GoFundMe account: gofundme.com/f/ryan-baldera-memorial-fund
The impact Baldera made was reflected in the GoFundMe donations. As of late Saturday, it had raised a whopping $125,475 of a stated $150,000 goal.
And Araujo pointed out, “There were lines out the door in 20-degree weather (at his wake). It’s a complete reflection of who he was.”
There was a great story with the 4x400 track relay team his senior year. The squad competed at All-States then hurried back from Fitchburg State for graduation. Baldera placed sixth in the 300 hurdles and did the 4x400 relay with seniors Steven Giarrusso and Erik Gonzalez and junior Claude Johnson.
Baldera received his diploma while still in his track sweats.
Anything for anyone
Giarrusso, a Methuen firefighter, said, “We grew up in the same neighborhood. I played sports with him my whole life. It’s just a terrible, terrible thing. He worried about others before himself. That’s just like he was in sports.
“You didn’t want to let him down. He would do anything for anyone. He was just a great kid. When I heard, it didn’t surprise me that he was trying to help someone else.”
His wife wrote on Facebook that she went to Shogun Tattoo in Salem to get a tattoo of a note with a flower Ryan wrote to her. She had it done on her wrist with Ryan’s handwriting. She got emotional when Scott Quinney from Shogun said it was their gift to her.
Jessica wrote on Facebook: “My heart filled with love and I hugged him. ... Moments later our wedding song came on. It just one of the signs I have been waiting for. I love you Ryan Baldera and I will forever have you on me.”