Lawrence “Larry” Joseph Onesti, in his own words, “did it all.” He was a husband, father, coach, researcher, professor, explorer, colleague, and friend to many. He was born in Chicago on November 12, 1938, to Inez (Battistello) and Lorenzo Onesti. He died on Monday, July 9, of complications from emphysema. He was 79.
Larry attended Assumption College High School in Windsor, Ontario, and was awarded many honors there including a Kiwanis award for outstanding high school student in the Chicago area. It was at Assumption that he would begin to play football, a sport that would be part of his life for many years.
Larry then went on to college studies at Northwestern University where he played linebacker and was one of the first football players to make Academic All American and was later inducted into the Northwester Hall of Fame. At Northwestern he studied Education and met his future wife, June Skowronski.
After graduating from Northwestern in 1962, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears and the Houston Oilers but chose to play for the Oilers because the salary was $1000 more (which always amused him). He and June married in 1964 and moved to Houston where he was a linebacker for the Oilers for four seasons. After his pro football career, he went to Michigan State University where he earned an M.A. in Geology and Geography in 1969. In 1973 he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin.
After earning his Ph.D., Larry held postdoctoral teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin, UCLA and the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1976, he joined the Indiana University Bloomington faculty where he forged a distinguished career as a teacher and researcher, first as an Associate Professor of Geography and then as Professor of Geological Sciences in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (formerly Geology). Later in his IU career, he moved to the School of Continuing Studies where he served as Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Principal of Indiana University High School. His IU career spanned 23 years.
Throughout his career Larry received numerous academic and athletic awards as well as fellowships from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology and the Goddard Space Flight Center. His University service at IU ranged from serving on the University Athletic Committee and the Bloomington Faculty Council and being an advisor and mentor for the Briscoe Fellows Program.
During his career as a geologist researching hydrology and sedimentation, Larry wrote and presented numerous research papers and pursued projects in Russia, China, Mexico, Japan and throughout the United States. He also served as a consultant to the Navajo Nation on mine restoration in Tsaile, Arizona, and as an evaluator of avalanche activity and dynamics for the Alyeska Pipeline in Anchorage, Alaska. In 1992, he was invited by the government of the Kyrgyz Republic (former Soviet Union) to serve as a geological evaluator.
During their marriage of 54 years, Larry and June raised four children and traveled all over the world. Larry was a passionately devoted father to his four children and a loving husband to June. Over the years he made many friends and often heard from football card collectors requesting his autograph.
He is survived by his loving wife June, and children Nina, Alex, and Nick (of Bloomington), Anthony (of Fort Hood, Texas), his sister Brenda Copenharve, brothers Paul and Frank (all of Chicago), and many close family friends.
The world was a better place having Larry Onesti in it, and he will be greatly missed.
In lieu of flowers the Onesti’s ask that donations be made to Heifer Project International in Larry’s honor.
Friends and family are invited to a celebration of Larry’s life, which will be held at the Upland Brewery Banquet Hall on Sunday, July 22, from 1:00 - 6:00 pm. Come and join us to share food, drink, and memories.
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