|NEMA Stalwart Angelillo Dies
|Waterbury, CT – Gene
Angelillo, a 14-time Northeastern Midget Association owners
champion, died Monday after a short illness at St Mary’s
Hospital. Angelillo, 74, also had an ARDC championship on a
30-year plus resume that included over 112 victories, 107 of
them in NEMA.
A Waterbury native, Angelillo’s team was “Dumo’s Desire” in
recognition of his late father Dominic and more recently
“Marilyn’s Passion” in honor of his late wife.
Marilyn and Gene, both officers, brought a passion to Midget
racing in general and to NEMA in particular.
Survivors include daughter and son-in-law Laura and Curt Kibbe and
granddaughters Tiana and Brooke.
Angelillo and Drew
Fornoro formed one of the greatest owner/driver combinations in
Midget history. Russ Stoehr and Joey Payne also won features and
championships for Angelillo. He won races with Johnny Kay, Nokie
Fornoro and Ted Christopher as well.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent for the
ANGELILLO MEMORIAL RACE
NEMA 261 Lincoln Road Sudbury,
|Goodbye Old Friend
responsibilities of life have gotten in the way and I am deeply
sorry I cannot be there today. Everyone has a Gene story, so I
wanted to take a moment to tell you all some quick stories about
what Gene meant to me and how he could touch someone's life.
Gene was the equivalent to a Grandfather in racing to me.
When I was 5 years old, I was headed to my first NEMA race at
Monadnock. For me, it was going to be exciting to see different
racecars and a different track than a Long Island racetrack.
Four and half hours later we arrived at Monadnock. All that
pent-up energy was for naught because we arrived at an empty
track and empty parking lot. In my father’s typical fashion we
got there a few hours early because, that was just Dad's way!
After sitting in that parking lot for what I thought was an
eternity, a motorhome rolled in towing a little open trailer
with a storage box that said 45 Dumos Desire on the side.
Sitting on that trailer was the prettiest red racecar you ever
saw. It was an Edmunds chassis with a Volkswagen engine, and
just like the storage box on the trailer, it said 45 Dumo's
Desire on the wing. That was the first time I met Gene and
Marilyn Angelillo. Drew won the race that night...and I became
an instant fan.
I became such a devoted fan that Dad had to chastise me one
night in the grandstands at Hudson. I was about seven years old
and threw a temper tantrum because Jim Lowery Jr. beat Drew to
Gene was so generous. In those early years, Dad raced on a
shoestring and Gene kept us supplied with used tires. He was so
giving, Dad would just say, "Go to Gene’s trailer and see what
he's got." When NEMA Banned the Mazda Rotary and Grandfathered
in my Dad's car in the late 80's, Gene approached my Dad and
said, "buy my car." Dad said he couldn't afford it, Gene said,
"Tell ya what, I'll lease it to ya!" It was Gene being Gene, and
that generosity wasn't just with us, it was with everyone. There
were so many time's he would give or loan out his own part's,
tool's or even crewmen to help others. He was a true competitor
who wanted to beat you at your best.
Fast forward to the Summer of 1996. Pete, Dad and I were working
on the family car at the house. The phone rang and it was Gene.
He was President of NEMA at the time. He heard I was announcing
go-kart races and a few TQ races. Chris Romano and Dick Monahan
had prior engagements, and that weekend was the Wen Kelley/Brian
Caruso Memorial at Seekonk. My dream was to announce races and
be on TV so I can not begin to explain what this opportunity
meant to me and the fact that I never asked Gene if I could
announce NEMA races, he asked me. That spoke volumes to me. He
watched my brother and I grow up and had confidence in my
ability. Keith Bothelho won the race that night, but back in the
pits Gene was the first person who wrapped his arm around me and
gave me a big kiss on the cheek. You'd have thought I had won
A few years later I went off to college to chase my dream of
being on Television. Gene always said, "You can do it. Derek
I've heard ya, you're just as good as those guys on TV!" Just
like protective parents, Gene and Marilyn always said if you
need anything you call.
I've never told anybody this story but while I was in college
I'd announce NEMA races to make extra money. One race weekend,
as I got paid at nights end. I was putting my little yellow
envelope in my pocket, Gene tugs on my shirt sleeve and says
"come here." He pulls me aside, pulls a wad of cash out of his
pocket, peels off about double of my pay and say's "take this,
you did a good job tonight." Knowing in his old Italian way, he
would have been insulted if I didn't take it. (I never told him
this, but that pay bought one of my schoolbooks and paid my
electric bill for the month) He said to me, "You keep doing what
you're doing. I love you"
That was the tone for every conversation we would ever have
since that night. Anytime we would ever talk, somewhere in the
conversation he would always say, "You keep doing what you're
doing, I love you." That was the amazing part about Gene. His
words were so simple but ran so deep, He gave people confidence
in themselves, he gave people the ability to believe in
themselves. It was infectious. After I moved down South Gene and
Marilyn believed in me so much they would fly me up to announce
big events or emcee Banquets. When we won our first race it was
Gene and Drew we had to beat. On the track it was a photo finish
at the line, in the pits Gene and Drew cried tears of joy for
How many laughs did we have with Gene over the years? It was
commonplace Gene and Marilyn would throw an after-party at the
Banquet. It was entertainment watching him "hold court!" with
club members young and old. They would circle around and listen
to his stories for hours. The older members would be reminiscing
while the younger ones were hanging on his every word about the
crazy things they did back in the day! Gene had fun at
everything he did, including life.
As I write the words and reminisce on a man who touched my life
so deeply, I can hardly hold back the tears. Gene didn’t die
from medical reasons, I like to think he died of a broken heart.
He loved Marilyn so much he was willing to go anyplace to be
with her, including Heaven. After Marilyn's passing Gene would
still "hold court" at the track or the banquet. But you could
tell there was a little pain that crept out from behind his eyes
because he missed her so much. And yes Gene I will admit part of
me is crying for my own selfish reasons that I'm going to miss
you but it’s also bittersweet and happy tears because you're
together with your beloved Marilyn. We'll all be faced with the
unfortunate reality that the pits are going to be a lot
different without you around. We can talk about his records in
NEMA, but those stats speak for themselves. It's more fun to
talk about and remember the person. It's these memories that we
have that allow Gene to live forever in all of us.
I'll keep doing what I'm doing Gene, I love you.