Originally published Feb. 18, 2013 in the Queens Courier.
Lou Rispoli would have turned 63 on February 1.
His widowed husband, Danyal Lawson, grieved that day for his slain spouse, but he wasn’t alone.
Lawson, of Woodside, found comfort in a bittersweet dinner with friends and by visiting the couple’s favorite flower shop, Nunziato’s Florist, where he picked out two orchid plants.
“I always got Lou green orchids,” said Lawson, 60.
Since losing his partner of 32 years, Lawson said the community and a “huge family of friends” have helped him cope by offering food and emotional support. Hundreds attended a November vigil and march, and some – including City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a friend of the couple – recently handed out police sketches of two of the three suspects wanted for the October killing.
“Everybody remembered Lou,” Lawson said. “When you live in a neighborhood for 30 years, it’s not an anonymous thing.”
Rispoli, who was attacked October 20 in Sunnyside, died at Elmhurst Hospital Center five days later.
Rispoli, Lawson and friends had long planned to dine at a beloved neighborhood restaurant to mark Rispoli’s shared birthday with two friends turning 21 – twin sisters who were once Lawson’s piano students. About 20 people – gay and straight, young and old – joined Lawson on February 1 for dinner at La Flor restaurant in Woodside.
La Flor’s chef and owner Viko Ortega, of Maspeth, said he met Lawson and Rispoli about 12 years ago when he opened the restaurant. He catered their August 2011 wedding reception, a few weeks after they were legally married on the first day they could be in New York State.
In the days after Rispoli died, Ortega provided food free of charge to Lawson and his friends, who were staying together while they grieved.
“I’m sure he [Rispoli] would’ve done the same thing,” Ortega said.
For the November vigil, brothers Michael and John Gioia, who own Nunziato’s Florist, donated single white carnations for marchers to carry. They also put together a heart-shaped floral arrangement with a “For Peace, For Justice, For Lou” ribbon that was placed near the corner of 41st Street and 43rd Avenue, where Rispoli was attacked.
Lawson said people have asked him if he plans to move.
“Where would I go? This is my home,” he said. “I still love this neighborhood.”
“That circle of friends was our family that we made together,” he added. “And it’s an amazing family. It really is.”
Lawson said bringing the suspects to justice is not about vengeance.
“It’s about closure,” he said. “I just hope that they catch these people.”
“If they don’t, there’s always going to be this, something that’s not finished,” he said.