Slain Buffalo coach, mentor and father figure is immortalized
He lost his life trying to break up a fight among two young men, not far from where his youth football team had just finished a game last summer. The Buffalo block where his Beast Elite Ducks' home field is located is now known as Norzell "Nore" Aldridge Way.
Family members, elected leaders and Aldridge's peers from the Ducks gathered Tuesday morning just off the intersection of Sycamore Street and Koons Avenue, a short walk from Emerson Park, to unveil the street sign designating that block as one renamed in his memory.
"He had an abundant passion for football throughout his entire life. He played semipro and later transitioned to coaching youth football," said Buffalo Common Council member Mitch Nowakowski about Aldridge in his opening remarks at the dedication ceremony.
Aldridge founded the Beast Elite Ducks in 2013. Last August, shortly after one of the Ducks' youth teams had finished a game, he spotted a violent confrontation nearby and intervened with the hope of defusing the situation. Instead, he and another victim were shot. Aldridge died as the result of his wounds.
"The kids loved him. He loved all the kids," said Shauncey Galarza, who was Aldridge's fiancé and is the mother of his five children. "Whatever he could do to help kids, he was there. He was a mentor. He was a counselor. He was sometimes a parent that they didn't have, you know?"
Taking care of his players, she explained, sometimes involved transporting them back and forth and even feeding them. She held their youngest child, two-year-old Nero, at the ceremony. He clutched a football throughout the proceedings and never let it go.
"His time with his father was cut short but his name will live on," she said. He'll still have memories and he'll still hear about his father."
Jason Washington, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, is charged with second degree murder in Aldridge's death, attempted murder in the shooting of a second victim and other charges in connection with a separate shooting earlier in August 2019. He faces up to 75 years in prison if convicted in both trials.
Following the tragedy, the Ducks won the United Youth Football League national championship last season. The first practice for the 2020 youth football season is scheduled for July 6. The program's vice president, Douglas "Rome" Hunt, vows the Ducks will carry on with the culture Aldridge established with his program.
"Before anything, we teach respect," he said. "Anybody can play football but you have to be respectful as young men first and foremost. What Coach Nore did, what he made sure he did, was preached value first. Do your homework, do your chores, respect your parents, things like that. That kind of separated him from just being a coach. He was a role model as well."