It is difficult to believe that we are all turning 22 this year, lived through a global pandemic, and will be graduating college in a few short months. Time has gone by so quickly, and yet, a piece of my soul will always be 14. It is birthday’s, milestones, and angel-versaries that we get the opportunity to publicly reflect on memories, but those that held Hannah the closest understand that there are “Little Things” in our everyday lives that bring us back and make us smile.
A piece of me still feels like Hannah will be pulling up to the house, like she did every Tuesday and Thursday for our Stingray’s soccer practice carpool. We spent countless car rides stinking up our parents’ cars with our sweaty shin guards (sorry mom, dad, and Mrs. Funck!). For years, we practiced and played together on the same field, it was our ritual. I am forever thankful that those car rides and practices set the foundations for what would become summers riding bikes, Taylor Swift concerts, and a forever bond. My most prized childhood/preteen memories are all with Hannah: Game winning goals, dying our hair with Kool Aid in my backyard, Hannah running down the middle school hallway to tell me her mom was about to have the baby brother she always wanted. As time has passed and I have entered adulthood without my best friend, I am constantly reminded that I have an angel to thank for all of my continued blessings.
Hannah lived a life of love and joy, loyalty and friendship, kindness and adventure. It is in this image that I strive to live my life on a daily basis. Birthdays and milestones have passed without her, but I have come further into the realization that Hannah set the standard for how I view friendship, life, and love. I cherish the years we spent as best friends and treasure every heaven held conversation we continue to have.
Over the past 23 years of being a coach in the Tinton Falls Middle School, I’ve been blessed to have coached, or have supervised as an Athletic Director, outstanding young male and female athletes. Obviously, the ones that stood out the most were the highly skilled and talented players that you knew had tremendous athletic abilities. I, in particular, always looked for the “intangibles” that an athlete can bring to a team. Hannah Duffy had the desire, the drive, the fighting spirit, the never give up attitude that coaches loved. Not only did Hannah have the skill on a soccer field, she had the heart. I would call her a “Little Spitfire.” Always fighting, never giving up no matter the score, always rooting her teammates on, and above all, always the agitator.
My favorite memory of Hannah was when I was the Athletic Director at the Middle School, and she was battling her illness, she would drive me crazy about playing in a game. During one game, she asked me time and time again, “Can I play Mr. Mac?” This went on and on and each time the answer would be “No Hannah! Please stop asking! You are wearing jeans!” Of course she didn’t stop. She pushed and pushed until she got her way. The next week, she was not only playing, she was scoring the winning goal. That “intangible” of never giving up, never stop fighting, has left a lifelong lasting impression on me. Hannah was truly one of a kind. I am so thankful to have those memories of Hannah, and to have met and become such dear friends with John and Sue. Happy Birthday #3! We miss you!
I am lucky enough to say that I knew Hannah her whole life. We were destined to be friends. My parents brought me, a 2-month old baby, to the hospital to visit Hannah right after she was born. I love that I can say I knew her from the time she was born until she passed. And I’m lucky enough to say that my best friend is watching over me from wherever she may be.
As a kid, I was cautious and a worrier, Hannah was fearless and courageous. I was gentle and calm, she was wild and fierce. That’s why we made the perfect pair. As Hannah grew sick, her energy faded but her spirit kept shining. The thing I admired most about her was her adventurous side. Hannah was up for anything, even things that most people would say were too dangerous. Her fearless heart led her bravely through her battle with cancer. She inspires me to bring adventure into my life. When Hannah got sick, I realized how special each moment we spent together was. To say I miss her is an understatement, but she always lives in my heart.
Though no young person should have to go through what Hannah did, the people around her created an unstoppable community. I have given speeches about Hannah that touched people who never knew her. I’m not from Tinton Falls, where Hannah lived with her mom, stepdad John, and Robbie, and people still came up to me after she passed expressing their condolences because her story touched their lives too. When I started college at Seton Hall in 2017, I had classmates come up to me and say, “I knew your friend Hannah, I’m so sorry, she was amazing.” I am currently doing a yoga teacher training with one of her cousins. Everywhere I turn, Hannah is there. As most people know, Hannah was afraid to be forgotten. I can say with 100% certainty that she will not be forgotten and her spirit lives inside each of us. Happy birthday Hannah, I love you, best friends forever and always.
Sue’s added memories:
Hannah & Delaney were truly lifelong friends and have what I can only say is a soul connection. The girls met on the day Hannah was born, and Delaney was also able to spend a few hours with Hannah on her last day. As Delaney said, they were destined to be best friends and spent much of their time together when they were toddlers and up until we moved to Tinton Falls the summer before Hannah started 2nd grade. Though they didn’t see each other nearly as often once we moved, they always remained dear friends.
I have so many memories of the two of them together, but one in particular sums up each of their own unique personalities. It was July 4th and we were having a backyard party...it had rained like crazy the night before and early morning, which left half of our yard flooded and full of muddy water. The girls were a little more than 2 years old at the time and both had cute little outfits on for the party. When Delaney came over, Hannah immediately brought her out to the patio and couldn’t wait to run and jump through the mud puddle. She had a blast and was full of mud while Delaney stood there on the patio with a horrified look on her face, and all I remember her saying was, “Hannah dirty, yuk, dirt”.... I wish I had pictures of that day because it was so classic of Hannah to be a wild mess and Delaney to be the neat and proper of the two girls.
Fast forward to the weeks Hannah was home on hospice, our time was spent with family and friends. She had no interest in material items, including her phone, so when we arrived home from the hospital, I had put it in a drawer in the living room and basically forgot it was there until the night before she passed away. I’m not sure what possessed me to take it out of the drawer and charge it up that night, but I’m so grateful I did. By that point, Hannah had lost her ability to speak and had been sleeping most of the time but after the phone charged, a text message from Delaney popped up. It was a beautiful message full of love for a best friend, written I’m sure, not knowing if Hannah would ever be able to receive it. Well, I read it to Hannah very late that night and asked her if she wanted me to see if Delaney could come to be with her in the morning. She couldn’t verbally respond but a single tear dropped from her eye and I felt her squeeze my hand. I immediately texted my friend Dianne asking if she and Delaney could come that morning to see Hannah. She dropped everything and the two of them came to our house so that Delaney could be with her best friend one last time...the picture I took of the two of them laying together was taken that morning. So, there’s the soul connection – together on the day Hannah was born and on the day she left this Earth. There’s no other explanation as to why I picked up her phone that night other than it was meant to be.
There are moments in our lives (and people that we encounter) that shape who we are and the things that we do. For me, that person was Hannah Duffy, and the moments were those in the wonderful and powerful life that she lived. My dear friend Hannah was a beautiful soul and a role model for myself and everyone that hears her story.
I first met Hannah when we were in second grade. Mrs. Wiley had her hands full trying to tame the ball of energy in the form of that rambunctious seven-year-old blonde. I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to forget the blur that she was on the soccer field at recess (and later in middle school), playing the game that she loved with verve and spirit at such a young age. She loved to kick that ball and be the best soccer player that she could be. She loved skateboarding; she loved her baby brother… she loved life. And everyone whose life she touched loved her back, we still do.
Flash forward to middle school and not much had changed in that bright spark of a girl. She was kind, smart, and funny as all hell. She lit up the room whenever she walked in and had everyone in stitches with her quick witty remarks. I remember the day that she got sick. My world was rocked. Fear and anger filled my heart with the thought that this sweet girl, one of my best friends, could have such an adult condition at such a young age. She was supposed to be finishing eighth grade like the rest of us young, healthy, and hopeful kids about to start high school. But when she came back to school after numerous tests and procedures to diagnose her brain tumor, she was no different than the day she was rushed to the emergency room. She was still the same jubilant, spry, wonderful girl that we missed so much. How could I still be angry and scared when she was so hopeful and confident? I never showed those emotions to her again because she showed me how to be strong.
My friend Hannah passed away on September 26th, 2013. It will be eight years this coming year since she has been gone, and not one day has gone by that I don’t think of her. I was so distraught when Hannah first lost her life. I couldn’t comprehend how my friend, a girl so pure and sweet, could just be taken away so easily. When I look back now, I still feel a twinge of sadness. But, more than that, I feel thankful to have known her. I try to make her proud in everything I do. I am going to physical therapy school to try to help young athletes like her achieve their dreams. I remain strong and try to help those who are struggling in life as she did when she was so ill. Hannah is with me in all aspects of my life. All of her friends try to honor her by keeping up ‘that fighting spirit’ as she did. The lessons that her life taught echo in her death and will continue to for many years. I love you HD3.
Hannah Duffy was a rock star on and off the field. After she came and joined the Neptune Stingrays, I immediately knew that she had the fire that we needed. We both were forwards and had different talents that allowed us to work so well together on the front line. There was one specific game that I remember playing at the Neptune fields. It was a pretty competitive game and I had crossed it over to the left side, where Hannah played. She used her intense speed and got to the ball and ran right through to the goal. She had gotten pushed down in the moment she was shooting the ball and got up, not realizing she had already scored, and tried to keep the play going. Everyone on our team and in the crowd had been cheering and once she realized she had already scored, began laughing so hard and all that she said was “Ohhhh oops” and came running to give me a high five and celebrate the goal! I think that truly shows how Hannah was in all aspects of her life. She never gave up.
Whether it was in soccer or school or any of the obstacles life threw at her. She was able to laugh at basically everything. She was extraordinary and one of the toughest people I have ever met. To this day, any time I see the number 3 anywhere, I think of Hannah and I remind myself to be strong, motivated, and to take on every obstacle with a smile on my face, just as she did. I love and miss you so much Hannah Duffy. Thank you for being an inspiration to me every day.
It was Hannah’s first day back at school after taking a bit off. I didn’t know that day was definitely going to be her first day back, so it was a pleasant surprise. My bus arrived at the middle school and I got off to walk into the building. On my way to the door, I spotted Hannah a few yards in front of me and approached her. When she saw me, we both smiled big and I gave her a huge hug. During that school year, we had math and gym together.
I sat behind her in math class and she would always wear this white beanie with a pom-pom hanging on the end of it. Naturally, I constantly hit it and played with it during class or when I saw her in the hallway. Hannah would always turn to me with an enormous smile saying, “Stooop,” while giggling, trying to act annoyed (it never worked). One day she had these chewy jolly rancher candies and during class she would sneakily reach her hand back behind her, still looking forward, and give me some pieces. Looking back at it, it definitely was not as smooth as we thought it was at the time.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Hannah and miss her dearly. She was so bright and funny, and never stopped shining no matter what. I am honored to have met Hannah, let alone become great friends with her, and I will never stop thinking or talking about her to ensure her legacy goes on.
Hannah was one of the most incredible people. I remember her coming to our house to come pick up Robbie, and she would always have to get him out of my room because he didn’t want to leave.
She was always such a great person to be around. She was always happy and she was so kind and caring to everyone. I was very young at the time so I don’t remember everything about her, but it always makes me happy hearing stories about her and how great she really was. One thing I definitely remember was how much Hannah loved soccer. That was something we shared. I remember how happy it made her and how good she was. I also have that love for it, and almost anytime I’m playing I think of her. That was always something that made me happy because it was something I shared with her.
I remember when my school would talk about the Hannah Duffy Foundation and they would call on me to say something. I remember being so happy about it because I got to share how great she was and how lucky I am to have gotten to know her. She was such a strong person and loved everyone, especially Robbie. I might have been young but it was clear how much she loved him and how much he loved her back.
One great memory I have of her is when she went away to Florida on vacation and brought me back a big stuffed Dora. It made me so happy. To this day I still have the Dora and every time I see it I just think of her, and how generous she was. I always think about how amazing it really was to have had the chance to have her in my life for the short time I knew her. I wish I had been older so I could remember more, but I still love all of the moments we shared and the memories we had. Whether it was with my sisters, me, or with Robbie. Every single one was a good one.
I miss her deeply but I’m happy she is in a better place now and she can always look down on us and protect us. I’ve said this many times, but I am so thankful to have had her in my life and have the privilege to share these memories I have with her.
I remember Hannah coming with Sue to pick up Robbie one time. As soon as Robbie saw Hannah was with his mom his face just brightened up. This was such a special moment that I will always remember. I could just tell that they had such a strong bond. Since then, Robbie and I have had a very close relationship.
I’m so happy to have been able to spend Robbie’s childhood with him. We’ve done so many things together. It makes me feel so special to have been able to be there for Robbie in a big sister role. I truly treasure our relationship.
I know I’m not alone when I say, Hannah was always someone who inspired me. Her courage and strength when facing one, if not, the most difficult challenge anyone can be put through, is something that is always able to help me come back to the surface when dealing with something that I think is hard.
The same way Hannah inspired me to change the way I look at life, she also inspired me in sports. Something we were both able to connect through was soccer. Soccer was and still is one of the best times of my life. I still remember watching her that day at the middle school field, just days after brain surgery. I couldn’t believe my eyes watching her run and play just as tough, if not tougher than every other player on the field. When she scored the game winning goal in double overtime it truly felt like a scene out of a movie; everyone went crazy! I just know how special that moment was for her, and for her to share it with all of us, makes it all the more special. Her strength and courage reflected that day as well, even just for getting on the field. She was never going let her battles stop her from taking part in the things she loved. I admire how Hannah treated life and how she was always focusing on achieving her next goal and never complained about the past. She truly was such a special person and even just knowing her is an honor.
Even now that Hannah is not here, I feel we still share an unspoken bond. Her battle cut her time with Robbie short and it's not even in question how difficult that was for her and him. But, after losing one, he gained four FOREVER sisters. I love Robbie like a brother and will always be there for him, the same way I would for any of my biological siblings. I know how much Hannah loved him and I’m forever grateful that I, along with my sisters, have been able to watch him grow and be here physically for him when she can only be there for him spiritually. I know she's looking down and is so proud of the person he is becoming, and it keeps my heart so warm. And I know that he knows how amazing his sister was as well.
Today I'm going to be sharing the stories from the other Radisch girls - Jami, Julianna & Daniele. Hannah has had a tremendous impact on many people, but the fierce love these girls have for Hannah's brother Robbie is the greatest gift that Hannah has left for us. While Hannah & Ariel had become fast friends during the early part of 7th grade, we did not meet the rest of the Radisch family until the spring of that year, at another friend's bat mitzvah. Robbie was just 15 months old at the time and had recently learned to walk. Daniele, being the 'big girl' (just 3yr old at the time), took over his care that day, and they've been best buddies ever since. Hannah loved her baby brother like no one else possibly could, but Daniele was a close second, a baby sister, and she adored her.
During the chaos of those first days in the hospital when we didn't really know what was going on, their mom Jeni stepped in and took care of Robbie so we could be with Hannah. She then started watching him regularly and was soon known as 'mama Jeni'. Even now, years later, she is still 'mama Jeni' to Robbie, and had watched him after school up until recently, when the pademic hit. While they don't see each other now as often as they did before, they still have an unbreakable bond. I've always been a big believer that there are no coincidences in this life, and there is no doubt that Hannah brought this family into our lives...first as friends, now as family.
I have soooo many pictures of Robbie with his girls, but included in these posts are some of the girl's favorites that they shared with me, along with some of my favorites too. These girls have given Robbie the happy childhood he so desperately deserved, and we are forever grateful for their continued fierce love of their 'bonus' little brother.