Documentary on Penn Hills native will be screened at Linton Middle School
Tony Lonero doesn't want people to think he's some sort of hero.
The Penn Hills native, who has lived in Anzio, Italy, since the early 1980s, suffers from multiple sclerosis. Lonero, 53, found that one way he could exercise without being in pain was bicycling.
Since then, he has become a one-man ultra-cycling machine, participating in grueling tests such as the 776-mile Paris-Brest-Paris cycling ultramarathon.
Lonero's story caught the eye of Italian film director Lucia Marani, who turned his story into the documentary “Ride to Finish,” which will be screened for the public Oct. 10 at Linton Middle School.
It will be Lonero's first trip back to Penn Hills since 2008, when he came home to film some of the scenes which appear in “Ride to Finish.”
“Four years have gone by, so I am really looking forward to this (visit),” he said.
Another person looking forward to the visit is Loretta Shelapinsky of Greensburg, who graduated with Lonero in 1977 and has not seen him since.
“We reconnected through Facebook over two years ago, and it was so inspiring to hear his story and see what an amazing man he has become,” Shelapinsky said.
When Lonero told her about plans for the screening, she felt the need to get involved.
“I suggested selling (multiple sclerosis) wristbands to promote awareness and raise some money for MS research,” she said. “When (Tony's former American Legion baseball coach) Bob Ford asked me if I would be interested in being on the committee to help organize and plan the screening, I was honored.”
Lonero said several of his high-school classmates have helped Ford in planning the screening, and he is excited to see them.
“I haven't seen them since high school and they all just stepped up for the cause,” Lonero said. “This is something I do miss from Penn Hills, the (place) I knew where your friends were always there to lend a helping hand. Here they are again after 35 years; we haven't seen each other, and they're working daily to make this a special evening for everyone.”
Shelapinsky said she hopes Penn Hills residents will be inspired by Lonero's story and accomplishments.
“In today's world, it is so easy to just give up when things go wrong,” she said. “But Tony has chosen to push forward and never look back.”
Lonero said he hopes the documentary strikes an emotional chord with viewers.
“The message is you don't give up,” he said.
“You set your goals and as long as you can breathe, you must fight.”
Lonero said when his MS flares up, he gets angry, and sometimes cries, but ultimately the emotion turns to motivation.
“The motivation that I have in my heart to live my life — not to ride a bike, simply to live — takes over,” he said. “My disease becomes the victim and I become the aggressor until I chase it from my body as much as I can, so I can get back to living my life.”
Despite the disease, Lonero said he looks at the 11 years since his diagnosis as the best of his life.
“I have learned to love every day that I can get out of bed and still walk,” he said. “My life before MS, I don't think about too much, because my body is different today.”
“Ride to Finish” will be screened at 7 p.m. at Linton Middle School, located at 250 Aster St. Lonero will speak following the screening.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.