Chris Cuomo: Mischief at Catholic School

ByABC News via via logo

Sept. 5, 2006 — -- Chris Cuomo's path began at Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica, Queens, in New York.

"He loved people. He was truly a people person even as a young child," said Sister Loretta Murphy, a teacher at the school.

He also was already a bit of a ham, said his mother, Matilda.

"When [Chris' father,] Mario, was running and had to make speeches in front of groups, [Chris] would stand there next to his father thinking the applause was for him!" she said.

Chris quickly attached himself to a group of friends who reveled in those growing-up years.

"Each one of them was so cool in their own way," Chris said of his childhood friends. "Jose had his hair back, and he was the karate man -- you know he was like strong and tough. Romolo was a great rocker, and he was a big, big presence. DeStephano was quiet, very smart. George Cirolli was, you know, the big guy, sorta the tough guy."

Chris remembers that he always tried to eat his friend Romolo Gabrielli's lunch.

"Romolo always had these great latest snack treats that his mom packed in there," Chris said. "So, I would have to beg, borrow, and steal and do whatever I could to get a taste of that action."

Mary Grace Buckmaster remembers getting a Valentine gift from Chris in sixth grade.

"I remember he gave me a very sweet stuffed animal, a Papa Smurf doll," she said.

Chris also always liked to talk -- a lot -- his friends, family and teachers said.

"If we put him in a corner, he could probably talk to the wall," said one of his teachers, Stephen Ferenga. "And you'd probably hear the wall answering back."

In Chris' Catholic school, things were strict.

Early on, his mother found herself often called to the principal's office.

"All of a sudden this little boy comes running and hugs and kisses me saying, 'Oh, Mommy, you've come to visit us again?'" Matilda said.

His father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, said Chris was unfazed.

"It didn't occur to him because he was a pain in the neck," he said.

The mischief that young Cuomo got into was mostly fun, Ferenga said.

"It was never malicious, you know. It was always good natured. You know, fun types of things."

Chris was a budding athlete, but not a very good one, according to his father.

"He was also a lousy ball player, which broke my heart. He was an embarrassment on the baseball field," Mario said.

Chris agreed.

"I stunk! They put me in right field. I used to sit there eating M&Ms."

Another thing everyone seems to remember about Chris was his thirst for knowledge, for wanting to know the "Why?" behind things, which may have been a hint at his future in journalism.

"Chris would always have a question. 'How do we know the Earth is over 4.6 billion years old?'" Ferenga said.

Then, in 1982, when Mario was elected governor, Chris' world changed dramatically.

He had to move 150 miles away to Albany, the state capital. It was a rough transition for the 12-year-old.

"That was hard," Chris said. "It was leaving a whole part of my life that I'd never get back again."

The memories of those early years, Chris said, have helped him become who he is today.

"And I love those guys in a way that doesn't go away," he said. "It's always there. If you wanna know who I am, you just have to look at where I came from."

"And I'm still that person today in terms of what matters to me. For everything else that surrounds it, the boy is still the man."

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