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In Memoriam: A Family Friend and a Big Influence on My Love For Cars
12-31-2004, 05:04 AM
As many of you may or may not know, my love for cars started at the now defunct Cloverleaf Speedway here in Valley View, Ohio. My father started taking me to that little 1/4mile bullring when I was only 7 months old, and from there until the track closed in the early 90's, every Friday was spent just me and Dad at Cloverleaf.
One of the people who became a close friend of ours through this was a man by the name of John Lemmo. Mr. Lemmo was the director at Cloverleaf, and often let me ride in the pace car or stand in the flagstand with him. He was a bit gruff at first, I remember being a little scared of him when Dad first introduced me, but he quickly became someone I admired for his knowledge and good-natured humor, as well as his love of cars of all kinds.
When he invited us over to his home during the off season to talk cars, I was in awe. What an idol for a six year old when you see that a guy not only gets to work with race cars, but collects classic cars too! The man had over twenty cars, ranging in coolness from a very nice MG TC to a 1968 Shelby GT500KR convertible! But those weren't his favorites.
Mr. Lemmo's favorite cars were his Tucker Torpedos, and with good reason. He was the proud owner of not only a regular production Tucker, but also the fabled "Tin Goose"; the Tucker prototype. He'd found it behind a barn in Pennsylvania in 1971, and the second he found in Elyria in 1973. Both he'd had restored to absolutely wonderful condition, and both were drivable.
So drivable, in fact, that he lent his knowledge of the cars and his pair of prized Torpedos to the move "Tucker: The Man and his Dream".
When I was a little older and could really grasp the state that he found the Tuckers in, and how rare the cars were and how hard it was to find parts for them, I asked him "Why'd you go through it all?" He laughed and told me this, and it's stayed with me ever since.
"You know, you go downtown and there's a bunch of guys who put pictures and statues and things in a museum so that no one can wreck them, and they say it's because pictures and statues and things are art. So, when I found this car, and I knew there was nothing else like this car, and that it was built out of a man's passion, ambition, and dreams, I knew I'd have to make sure I saved it because cars are art too, they're just art everyone can understand."
My father and I fell a bit out of touch with him, though we still talked with him every year at various car shows. But yesterday, I found his obituary in the paper, and it stunned me a little, even though he was 88 years old, an avid pipe smoker, and in later years was beginning to grapple with Alzheimers.
He was a really nice guy, and more than that he was a curator of an art that we all, as car enthusiasts, enjoy and treasure. It's thanks to men like Mr. Lemmo that we don't forget the incredible history and the incredible beauty of the automobile. But more than that, he's right. Cars are art.
Thank you Mr. Lemmo, thanks for sharing your art with me. Godspeed.
12-31-2004, 05:16 AM
Well written Mr. Justin...
Sorry to hear that, but glad to hear you had somebody that neat in your life.
Now, get your damn MG running so you can drive your art around.
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