Above: Anthony and Diane Laria with their twin daughters, Cortney and Kristen.
Tony Laria is a modern man whose professional career is in technology. He is a bit old fashioned, however, continuing a long line of family members who serve our parish.
You might be one of our most high-tech parishioners. You are director of infrastructure at NYCM Insurance Co., worked at Utica National as a computer programmer in 1981 out of college, went on to General Electric Aerospace as a programmer, among many other technical jobs. What attracted you to this field?
My dad had a successful career in information technology with the federal government; back then it was called data processing. I was always intrigued with science and math and focused on problem solving. When I entered SUNY IT, the admissions director at the time explained this new degree program, and after 30 minutes of conversation I committed to that curriculum. I have loved it ever since; each day brings a new set of challenges. Making the move from staff to management was rewarding as it enabled me to mentor young IT professionals.
You have worked your entire career in the Utica area, while your jobs have taken you to areas around the United States and internationally to China, Singapore, Mexico and England. How were those experiences?
Amazing. My travels across the United States and abroad enabled me to embrace other cultures, including food, but knowing where home is always made the return trip special. I have so many experiences in both work and touring of those countries. When working with professionals of other countries, I had to work extra hard to keep my slang to a minimum and curb my sense of humor, but once they got to know me, they accepted me for who I am — an Italian from the Utica area who respected everyone and loved to learn more about them all. We are planning a family trip to Italy over the next year, looking forward to the memories and miles that trip will bring.
One of your passions is music — from listening to the ’70s on satellite radio, to Elton John, to Frank Sinatra. Talk about your love of music.
A regret of mine was never having learned to play a musical instrument; my mother tried, but sports had a bigger influence in this kid’s life. When I get into the car, any station that bridges the ’70s forward is always welcome. Although my music interest ranges from the ’70s, I always loved listening to Sinatra. That came from visiting my Uncle Ralph in New York as a youngster. He would listen to Jonathan Scwhartz on Saturday night hosting a show on FM radio titled “Saturday with Sinatra.” My wife and I went to Elton John’s farewell concert at MetLife Stadium. It was one of the best nights of my life. For two hours the clock was turned back.
Your parents, Joseph and Frances Laria, were parishioners of Mount Carmel dating back to the 1940s, remaining actively involved in all areas of church and school life through committees and volunteer groups from PTA to festival chairman, to substitute teacher when one of the nuns was out sick. Your sister, the late Margaret Laria Hanrahan, also was very involved in the parish. How did that background guide your life?
I learned at a young age through my parents to get involved and make a difference where you can. When I believe that my involvement will make a difference, it’s hard for me to not get involved. “No” is not in my vocabulary. I encourage everyone to step up and make that difference in your community. The experience is worth the journey.
You’re following in the family volunteer business. Throughout the years you have been an altar server, lector, eucharistic minister, parish trustee and current president of the Parish Council, among others that include serving on committees and boards. Why do you do so much and what do you get out of it?
I wish I had an easy answer, I just know where I can make a difference and step up. I look back at my childhood and realize that not all children have had the same family structure and support that I had. Family is important, and the protection of our youth goes hand in hand with that concept. I look back every day and I thank God for my family, the memories I have and the ones that we keep making. I love my parish and will do whatever I can to keep it vibrant and alive. There are many parishioners that do as much if not more than I do, and to that I am very grateful to them. I have watched so many of my parents’ generation lead this faithful community. The Greatest Generation continues to decrease in numbers. The onus is on us to keep their legacy alive.
Any final words of wisdom to share?
No words of wisdom, just advice. Step out of your comfort zone and make a difference. Stewardship is considered time, talent and treasure. The treasure can sometimes be the easy one; time and talent is where you can make a difference. We have a beautiful church and a strong faithful community; get involved and make that difference. When I was a trustee during Father Joe’s time at Mount Carmel, he had a saying, “We have a history to preserve and a future to create.” During these challenging times of parish consolidation in our diocese, those words still resonate. Get involved, get your family involved, make a difference so we can build our future together.
- Family: Wife Diane, twin daughters Cortney and Kristen.
- Education: Bachelor of science in computer science from SUNY IT.
- Employment: Director of Infrastructure at NYCM Insurance Co.
- What you like to do: Landscaping around my house, Yankees and New York Giants fan, golf, traveling, hosting our extended families at our home for all parties and holidays.
- Favorite musician: Frank Sinatra.