Celebrating the life of Richard William DeSantis
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Richard “RW” DeSantis of Rock Hill, New York passed into his eternal life at 8:30 pm Wednesday night at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City surrounded by his wife, brother and many friends. Richard fought a courageous battle with an extremely aggressive form of cancer for the last 4 months. He never once complained and gave his all to stay alive until the very end.
Richard was born on January 3rd, 1949 in Schenectady NY to Al and Gloria DeSantis the third of three sons. He lived the formative years of his life in Niskayuna, New York where he graduated from Niskayuna High School. He attended Adirondack Community College, graduated from the United States Trotting Association School of officials and was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force Reserves. Richard was a terrific all around athlete and excelled in baseball and golf. For many years he was an avid fly fisherman. He was a first team player in the Schenectady Twilight Baseball league when he was fifteen years old and most of the league players were in their twenties.
He began working in the racing industry as a teenager as a groom for the master horsemen Percy Davis at Saratoga Raceway. It was this work experience that developed the foundation for his considerable training skills. Through the years he became a trainer and driver with a public stable during a thirty year career. While racing at Monticello Raceway he was a member of the Monticello Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors. In two separate years he trained the Monticello Raceway trotter of the year, Thistle Lobell and Pepper Schnapps. Pepper raced in the prestigious Filly Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in 1981.
Aside from his two outstanding trotters, his all-time favorite horses were Arriva Wick, Most Happy Flight, Mist of Gold, Royal Mary K, the invitational pacer Harold The Heel and the super tough raceway horse Don Jose who won 54 races in his long career. Arriva Wick and Most Happy Flight each won twenty seven races in their careers.
Richard had an amazing ability to connect with animals both domestic and wild. There were numerous wild birds that he trained to eat from or near his hands. His latest connection was with several wild deer that would come running from the wooded area near his home whenever they spotted him. He would talk to them in a soft reassuring manner to settle them down and then feed them by hand. It was a great experience to observe. During the deer hunting season, sensing danger many deer would settle in his heavy wooded back yard for days on end. The deer recognized with their attuned and wild senses that his home was a beacon of safety and protection. He was extremely proud of this interaction knowing wild animals recognized him as their friend. Any stray cat or dog found a caring and compassionate individual when they came upon RW. His Labrador retriever Baron who died at seventeen years of age was his all time favorite and one of the world’s great dogs. The two were so tuned in and connected that we were never quite able to figure out who was training who.
He was the founder and President of Victory Lane Liniment in 1985. Victory Lane is recognized by horsemen and trainers of all breeds as a superior product, sold in the US, Canada and Europe.
Richard was an Associate and Presiding Judge for many years with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. He presided over the races at Monticello, Vernon, Tioga, Saratoga, Yonkers, Goshen Historic and numerous fairs among others.
He was recognized for his helpful, caring and knowledgeable advice and assistance for any novice seeking direction in their racing careers. Richard descended from the Will Rogers’ school of human interaction. He never meet anyone he didn’t like. That trait and gift was present in his spirit to the very last moment of his life.
Richard was married to the love of his life Kelli Licata DeSantis for nine years. Kelli was by his side twenty four hours a day as the end approached and whispered her devotion and everlasting love to him as the last words he would hear. They both possessed great faith in their Catholic beliefs which they practiced together for years. These beliefs gave them comfort in their battle with the cancer that took his life.
Richard was predeceased by a brother Patrick Warren, his mother Gloria, his father Al the Pulitzer Prize nominated sports editor and columnist and national promoter. He is survived by his loving wife Kelli, her brother R.J Licata, her sisters Joanne and Jamie Licata , her mother Marie and her father Richard and his wife Nancy with whom he had a very close friendship. He is also survived by his brother Warren, his wife Karen and his niece and nephew Darren and Kristen. He is also survived by many cousins in an extended family.
The family would like to thank the nurse’s and doctors at Crystal Run in Middletown and at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for their professional and personal attention. In particular, the staff, nurses and doctors of the Dr William Grace team on the 7th and 8th floors whose efforts were nothing short of amazing. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
Visitation will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, August 18th and from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, August 19th, at Applebee-McPhillips Funeral Home, Inc, 130 Highland Avenue, Middletown, NY 10940. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, August 20th at 11 a.m. at St. Peter's Church, Liberty Street, Monticello, NY. Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.Memorial contributions in Richard's name may be made to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, 100 Woods Road, Taylor Pavilion Suite C3, Valhalla, NY 10595.
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