Pit Stop

This is who he was…

He became a friend to me within a week after we moved into the decaying edifice across from his house.

He was a journeyman carpenter; proud of his work, but humble about his life.  He would tell me which tools I needed – then loan them to me.

He didn’t much like dogs, but he never yelled at ours.

When we were refinishing our floors, he put us up in in his motorhome – for a week.

Instead of yelling the neighborhood kids off his lawn in the summer, he sat out on his porch, made toys for them – then shot them mercilessly with a Super Soaker.

He was the guy our teenage son would go talk to, when our relentlessly unfair parental dicta became too much to bear.

Our youngest daughter called him “Uncle Tony.”

He cut and split wood every year, but never burned any. He hauled it all to his Mom’s house.

He visited his Mom nearly every weekend. She lived 40 miles north.

A charter member of the North End Street Racing Association, he gleefully imparted to me this bit of dubious riding wisdom: “Gas on, brains off.

“Ya can’t get hurt in the air!”

Tony was the first and best friend I made in this neighborhood. We didn’t do much together, but we talked a lot in our driveways, on our porches, and in the middle of the street. It’s not a very busy street.

“Okay, Jack, we’ll talk to ya later!”

“See y’aroun’, T.”

He was a pro-level water skier.

He harbored two immaculate 1985 Honda Interceptors (a Rothmans 750 and a 500) in his garage, a rusty dirt bike on his back porch, and a YSR pocket racer in his shed.

Of the four men in our unofficial neighborhood gimp club, two had running boats and three had running motorcycles; he was the only one of us with both. Diplomacy…Minibike

He was a lifelong bachelor.

He hid Smalldaughter’s little dirt bike in his garage until we could surprise her with it following an extensive scavenger hunt. Her expression and his were both as bright as the sun when she finally pulled the sheet off and saw it for the first time.

He was on disability after a Milwaukee Hole Hawg caught hard in a deck plate and blew out his left wrist.

He was the only resident here who got along with every single neighbor, all the time, without exceptions.

He had a garage full of tools and practically no furniture.

He didn’t have the health to support a second surgery on his wrist. It never got better, and he did not go back to work.

He often asked if I wanted to come over and watch racing, but I’ve got a family and I’m not much for TV. I only went once.

He always asked if I wanted to go to Bike Night, but I’ve got stuff to do. That’s exactly the kind of thing I like. I went twice.

We tried to feed him pizza, until he stopped coming over. “I already ate,” he’d say, or, “I’ve got some of that Chinese soup I’m gonna heat up.” He lost 40 pounds while I knew him. That was 40 pounds too much.

Last weekend, we went out of state to buy a motorcycle. I was looking forward to showing it to him, but Tony was gone before we got back.

He would befriend anyone who treated him with respect, but when he tried to make a friend of a demon, that demon killed him.

He was the second friend of the past year. That pace won’t slow. We were the same age, Tony and I, an age where some of us start to lose our way and fall off the planet.

He was a good man, and a great neighbor, and I hope for all our sakes that he had great neighbors. He deserved that. He earned it every day.

So long, T. Save a seat for me.

I’ll be there when I get there – and just like before, I hope you’ll be there to show me around the neighborhood.


  1. Dennis W. says

    I pray that we would all be that kind of neighbor to those around us. Thanks for sharing with us, Jack.

  2. Good man. I chatted him only a few times but he talked to me like an old friend from the beginning. Then there was that time with the ?ribs… ‘Tis a great loss.

    I was just talking to New Neighbor the day before and she was looking forward to getting to know the folks on the block. I pointed out his house and said something like ‘Nice, interesting guy’ – probably the one I knew best of the neighborhood, next to your family. It’s strange, but I realized I know more of your neighbors than I know mine. Shoulda bought that house next door.

  3. What a lovely tribute, Jack. Thank you for sharing – it’s the sort of thing that keeps memories alive…. and lots of reminders about making time ….

  4. Excellent tribute Jack!

    This world needs more people like Tony, not less. I can tell I would have liked him.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


  5. Thank you Jack. I haven’t met you,but Tony did talk about you.I called Tony one time and he told me he was sitting out in the sun reading your book. just wanted to say Thanks. Tonys little sister, Deedee.

  6. Paul Petrovich says

    Jack. Thank you very much for taking the time to make this tribute. You’ve done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Tony.

    I have almost 50 first cousins on the Webster side of the family and Tony was, unequivically, my favorite. Sure, we’re both the same age and we’re both guys, but I think I speak for a majority of the cousins when I say that Tony was a special, stand-out, stand-up guy. He had a great sense of humor and you could tell he really enjoyed making people laugh. People were just drawn to him.

    I, too, will miss him very much.

    Thanks again.

  7. Thank you Jack for being Tony’s friend and for sharing this beautiful tribute with all of us. I’ve know the Dorgan family for about 30+ years (best friends with sister Paula and hubby Harry). Tony was a great great guy and will definately will be missed. We had alot of great camping trips and gatherings. Thanks again for sharing

  8. Thank you, Deedee and Paul and Karen, for sharing part of your family with my family.

    I was a little shy about posting this — one doesn’t want to intrude on another family in a sad time — but T. was really the best neighbor any of us have had, and he always seemed like a member of our family, too.

    We’ll miss him.

  9. people ask why do you ride those things? if you have to ask you wouldnt understand.tony understood!i remember when his dad brought home his new yz125 i think he wet his pants.he was a novice barely new the front from the back. a week later he had it figured out.it didnt matter if we were trading paint and bumpin elbows racing ysr”s or chasing each other thru the woods at belfair tony loved to ride.tony was a giver not a reciever.always there to help paula and i when we bought our home.never willing to take money he was like a stripper you had to shove it in his pants.always a smile and a big hart.your helmet and gloves hung high in the garage for us to look up at and for you to look down. god speed tony D.WFO HARRY

  10. harry gamble says

    people always ask why do tou ride those things? if you have to ask you wouldnt understand tony understood.i remember when his dad brought home his new yz125 i think he wet his pants. tony was a novice he hardly nrw the front from the back.a week later he had it figured out.it didnt matter if we were trading paint or bumpin elbows racing our ysr”s or chasing eaching each other thru the woods in belfair tony loved to ride.tony was a giver not a reciever. when paula and i bought our home he was always there to help.he was like a stripper the only way you could get him to take money was to shove it in his pants! always a smile and a big hart.your helmet and gloves hung high in the garage for us to look up at and for you to look down. god speed TONY D. harry gamble

  11. You have painted a wonderfully clear picture of Tony. He was a lovely man. Thank you.

  12. Hi Jack,
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful tribute to Tony. It was spot on! It’s no surprise, that he was that kind of person…..to everyone he met and that is pretty rare these days.

    I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time with Tony in our adult years, but I could see that he was the same “kid” as a kid, that he was as an adult. That was part of his charm…..just a big kid with a big heart.

    He was such a laid back person, with never an unkind word to say about anyone…..again, very rare in today’s world. He reminded me a lot of my own mom, who was the same way. I only wish I could be half the kind person that they both were.

    It breaks my heart that he is gone, so young, but I know that he is in a better place and will look down on us with a HUGE smile, as we raise a glass and have a toast, while sitting around a campfire…..to one hell of a great person!

  13. Kirsten N says

    Hi! I’m one of Tony’s nieces, and was going through some stuff I’ve saved online and happened upon this amazing piece you wrote. Almost 7 years later, it still brings tears to my eyes, reading about how Uncle Tony brought happiness to so many people. Thank you still, this many years later, for writing this and sharing your thoughts about him, I’m sure I’ll be reading this many more times in the years to come!

    • Thanks, Kirsten.

      We still miss your Uncle Tony. “T” was the best kind of neighbor we could possibly have met, from the time we moved in until the day he moved on.

      He was exceptional. In these angry times, we could sure use a few more like Tony.

      Blessings on your family, Kirsten.



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