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Friend, former player remembers Ara Parseghian during local fundraiser

Almost two months after legendary Notre Dame Football coach Ara Parseghian died, a Mishawaka restaurant is still celebrating his legacy, especially since he was a regular customer with them.

Papa Vino's was collecting donations all day Wednesday for the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund at Notre Dame.

One group who was there says they spend even more time remembering their friend by hanging out at the booth they sat at every Wednesday as part of their weekly tradition.

“This is our booth, it’s always reserved. Can’t sit here unless you’re a R.O.M.E.O., that’s right,”

Roger Valdiserri, friend of Ara Parseghian.

They call themselves the R.O.ME.O.’s

“Retired old men eating out,” said Valdiserri.

And after traditionally coming to the same table… every Wednesday… for 8 years, Valdiserri says today is a special day to remember why.

“We started with four. We discussed everything. Politics, athletics, football, baseball, basketball, NFL,” said Valdiserri

I asked how they ended up making this a tradition…

“Uhhh.. that’s a good question….. we were hungry (laughs),” said Valdiserri.

New to the booth this week, one of Parseghian’s former football championship stars

“He was like a second dad to me, really was. Not only was he a great coach… the best. But he was a very fair man. For a guy my size to play at Notre Dame, you had to be a fair man,” said Frank Criniti, a former Halfback/Runningback for Notre Dame under Parseghian during the 1960’s.

Despite Ara’s competitive side, which Criniti knows very well, he encouraged giving, something others can now do for him.

“Intense man.. loved to win at everything. He wanted you to play, he wanted you to graduate, and make a contribution to society… he was a great man,” said Criniti.

Papa Vino's will continue collecting donations until 11:00 pm on site. You can either make a direct donation or part of the proceeds from your dinner will go toward the medical fund.

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