Frank Manafort passes

Frank Manafort,78, passed away peacefully on February 1st 2020 in Stuart, FL. He was born December 7th, 1941 in New Britain to the late Frank and Ida (Orioli) Manafort. Frank is survived by his wife Elizabeth Manafort of Palm City, FL; sister Angela Manafort of Berlin; step daughter Jennifer Hickey of Arlington, MA; daughter Lana Manafort (JR Mancini) of Plainville, CT; son William (Heather) Manafort of Avon; daughter Liza (Nathaniel) Totz of Plainville; daughter Lauren Manafort of Farmington; his grandchildren, Daniel and Devon Nanowski of Plainville, Lola Hickey of Arlington, MA, Olivia and Owen Manafort of Avon and Vincent Totz of Plainville. He is also survived by his nieces, Lorraine Steele of Utah and Shana Manafort (Brian Ely) of Berlin and his great nephew, Brody Ely of Berlin. He also leaves behind his partner in crime “Rusty”. He was predeceased by his twin sister Carol. He also leaves behind many beloved cousins and friends. Frank along with his cousins Jim and Jon took over a small demolition company from their fathers in 1967. Frank was instrumental in forming the Site Work and Concrete divisions of Manafort Brothers which allowed the company to perform a large portion of the civil construction at both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. Frank also began bidding highway work and successfully constructed many of the roads and bridges in Connecticut until his retirement in 2008. He was a generous, loving, loyal and fearless man, in every aspect of his life. A wonderful example was in 1980 when after hearing an explosion he entered a building and saved the life of an injured woman. Frank’s positive attitude and fearlessness was in abundance in his last year of life battling cancer. Frank, with his contagious laugh and beautiful smile, shared his passion for life in everything. He was an avid reader and a man of many “hobbies” and seemed to live his life by the words “go big or go home” in everything he accomplished. He had a lifelong love of boating and most recently enjoyed his voyages with his Grady White Club in FL, traveling throughout the US in his Coach and riding his motorcycles. He had an absolute love of animals both in his everyday life and in raising, breeding (producing many national champions) and showing cattle at his Black Watch Farm in VT where he produced Black Watch Farm beef and was known famously for his Frank’s Franks. He had a lifelong love and passion for both asphalt and dirt racing starting as a teenager with Stock cars at Tinty’s track in Plainville, Legend cars up and down the east coast, until the end of his life with USAC midgets throughout the US, winning many championships along the way. Traveling the world, he experienced a life changing meeting with Pope John Paul. His faith was such an important aspect as to what made him so special, as demonstrated in his more than 30 year relationship with the Marian Fathers. With his partner in faith Father Kaz, he participated in the first and second Apostolic Congresses on Divine Mercy in Rome and Cracow. Through his generosity, guidance and knowledge he assisted in many construction and upgrade projects for the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge MA as well as helping refurbish the Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Eucharist convent in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is with grateful hearts and a sense of comfort and peace that we will celebrate Frank’s life on Sunday February 9, 2020 with calling hours from 3-8 PM at Erickson-Hansen Funeral Home, 411 South Main St., New Britain. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, February 10, at 11 AM at St. Ann’s Church. Burial will follow in St. Mary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in memory of Frank Manafort Jr. to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, MA 01262 and/or to Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation, 1201 SE Indian Street, Stuart, FL 34997-5688.

FRANK MANAFORT, USAC MIDGET CAR OWNER, PASSES AT 78

 (February 1, 2020)………Frank Manafort, whose FMR Racing cars drove to victory lane eight times in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition with drivers Brady Bacon and Jason McDougal over the past four seasons, passed away February 1, 2020 at the age of 78.

Manafort, originally from the northeast, but residing in Palm City, Fla., was the owner of the winning car in several marquee events with the series between 2016 and 2019.  His first victory came with Brady Bacon behind the wheel for a $20,000 payday at the Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. in 2016.

In fact, Bacon accrued six of Manafort’s eight wins as an owner with the series, including a two-night sweep of the Kokomo Grand Prix at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in 2017 and a win in the penultimate round of the season, the November Classic at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway.  FMR and Bacon continued its winning ways in 2018 with a score in the inaugural BC39 at The Dirt Track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

When Bacon stepped back into a part-time role with FMR for 2019, winning remained a constant with driver Jason McDougal capturing his first two career series feature wins at Fairbury, Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway and Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.  Meanwhile, Bacon collected one final win for FMR in the Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway just this last November.

“So sad to hear of the passing of Frank Manafort this morning,” Bacon posted on Twitter Saturday morning.  “Racing for FMR has been a highlight of my career.  Frank was a great friend and great man.  We will miss you my friend.”

FMR Racing was a consistent finisher near the top of the USAC National Midget point standings: 3rd in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 6th in 2019.

Additionally, Manafort won 39 times as a car owner with the USAC DMA Midget series between 2013 and 2016.  His teams swept all 13 races on the schedule in 2016, the first two with Josh Sunn and the final 11 with Adam Pierson.  The 11-race win streak by Pierson in Manafort’s car tied the record for the longest winning streak in USAC history with Billy Boat’s 1995 Western States Midget season.  Together, Pierson and Manafort won three-straight USAC DMA titles between 2014-15-16.

“Big John” Kershaw passes

 

 

 

 

 

John “Big John” Patrick Kershaw, 76, of East Hartford, loving husband and soulmate for 38 years to Donna (Klein) Kershaw, passed away too soon from cancer, surrounded by his family and friends on Friday, January 24, 2020. Born in Hartford on December 5, 1943, he was son of the late John P and Dorothy V (Norman) Kershaw and has lived in East Hartford his entire life. He served in the Army National Guard and retired from the Town of East Hartford after 49 years as Parts and Project Coordinator. Loving all things on wheels, he enjoyed stock car racing, built his own car and was involved in many racing circuits. In the past he enjoyed bicycling and traveling by train, but was happiest when he hit the open road with Donna. He became involved with the local music scene to support his Grandson, being dubbed the “local hardcore Grampy”.

Besides his loving wife and their 7 rescue cats, John leaves behind his daughter, Diane Fossaluzza (Kenneth);brothers, Norman Kershaw of CT and Thomas Kershaw(Shirley) of Utah; nephew, Matthew Kershaw (Emily) of Utah and his two cherished grandchildren, Linnea and Liam Fossaluzza, who were the joy of his life.

Visitation is on Saturday, February 8th from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the D’Esopo East Hartford Memorial Chapel, 30 Carter St., East Hartford, and will conclude with a prayer service and words of remembrance with reception to follow. For online expressions of sympathy to the family, please visit www.desopoeh.com.

 

John was a great guy and his is a huge loss to our racing fraternity. Our membership remembers him fondly,  and sends our thoughts and prayers to his surviving friends and family.

 

 

 

 

John Stygar, Famed Modified car owner, passes

Story courtesy of Marc “Bones” Bourcier

 

 

 

 

 

This morning brought the sad news that John Stygar has passed away. John never sought the limelight; hell, he usually HID from it. In this victory photo of Steady Eddie Flemke accepting a trophy at Fredericksburg, VA, in 1961, at the very dawn of the Eastern Bandits era, that’s John at the far right. He’s behind the trophy presenter, waiting for the hoopla to end so he can load up and hit the highway again. I’ve always maintained that the whole “Eastern Bandits” era may not have happened without John. After all, Eddie need a car owner adventurous enough to agree to haul his “dollar sign” coupe up and down the coast in the early 1960s. They won just about everywhere they went, dragging Denny Zimmerman, Rene Charland, Red Foote and others into the action. Later, in the red-hot small-block era of the mid-‘70s, Eddie won often in John’s #7 Pinto, scoring at Thompson, Waterford, Plainville, and no doubt a couple of other joints. Bugs Stevens, Gene Bergin, Denis Giroux, Denny Zimmerman, Fats Caruso, and Smokey Boutwell also steered John’s cars.  John’s place in Modified history is assured. The sport was built upon sturdy bricks like John. — Bones

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John R. Stygar (81, born March 7, 1938) passed away peacefully on Friday, January 3, 2019 at St. Francis Hospital. John lived a long and wonderful life. He is survived by his sisters, Marion Howard and Joan Winslow, both of Bolton; his brother-in-law Jim Howard, also of Bolton; his niece Deborah Howard of Maine; and two nephews, James Howard of Manchester, and Craig Winslow of Southbury. Born in CT, John attended St. James Elementary School and graduated from Manchester High School. He was a lifelong resident of Bolton, CT. John was self-employed, owning and operating Manchester Sweeping and Stygar Snowplowing. John was an ardent auto racing enthusiast. He owned a race car and as part of a team, he enjoyed much success at tracks throughout the Northeast. One of his greatest joys was restoring a 1955 Chevy. John was known as a kind and compassionate man who would help anyone who asked. John was an avid collector; we will always remember John saying to us, “Ya never know when you’re going to need it.” He was also an organ donor. To celebrate John’s life, please join the family for calling hours on Sunday January 12th from 4-7 p.m. at the John F. Tierney Funeral Home, 219 West Center Street, Manchester. Funeral Services will be held on Monday, January 13th at 9:15 a.m. from the funeral home with a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated at 10:00 a.m. at St. James Church 896 Main St. Manchester, followed by burial in St. Joseph Cemetery, Willimantic. Donations may be made to Joe Niekro Foundation Brain Aneurysms, AVMs & Hemorrhagic Strokes GIVING at www.joeniekrofoundation.com/ways-to-give/general-donation/ A special thanks to the staff at St. Francis Hospital for all their care and attention to such a wonderful man. For online condolences, please visit www.tierneyfuneralhome.com
 

Published in The Hartford Courant on Jan. 9, 2020

NEAR HOFer Val Lesieur passes

 

Story courtesy of Bones Bourcier

The loss of Val LeSieur is going to rock a lot of racing people in the Northeast, and indeed up and down the East Coast. Across several decades he published Speedway Scene, which had to be the liveliest trade paper ever printed. It carried news and opinion, it infuriated the occasional track operator, it ran semi-regular pages of goofy photos and captions, and it tied together a region full of readers who considered it a bible. In my early teens I was one of those kids, buying the paper for 50 cents at Plainville Stadium, seven or eight miles from my home in Connecticut. Later I wrote columns for Val, and by age 18 I’d moved to Massachusetts to work for him full-time, cranking out a 48-page (later 56-page) paper on gallons of coffee, snacks, and at least one all-nighter a week. Every Monday-Wednesday it bordered on torture, but, looking back, it was a joy. I worked for Val in various editorial positions (and essentially lived with his family part-time) from mid-1979 through most of ’88, except for a very brief stint in 1983 when I mistakenly thought civilian life looked appealing. Among those who wrote for Speedway Scene in those years were Pete Zanardi, Buffy Swanson, Dave Moody, Phil Smith, Kevin Eckert, Bob Echo, Toodi Gelinas, Mark Thomas, Jack Flowers, Don and Joanne Davies, Charlie Langois, Gary Grim, John Brouwer and Dave Shippee, Kraze Korlacki, Bob Morris, and many more. Together with Bob Echo, Val created the annual Racearama trade show that, truth be known, was one of racing’s biggest parties. He and I ran up and down the road probably hundreds of times, to Martinsville, Daytona, Oswego, Syracuse, Islip, Pocono, and countless other tracks. It was my honor, back in 2011, to induct him into the New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame, as pictured. Val never had a dull moment, and to be in his orbit was to laugh a lot, yell a little, and move on to the next adventure. My heart goes out to his daughter, Valerie, who has known too much sadness. But, for a minute, let’s think of him and smile. He always signed letters, “Your pal Val,” and he wasn’t kidding. He was everybody’s pal. — Bones

Image may contain: Mark Bourcier and Val LeSieur, people smiling, people standing and suit

NEAR HOF Driver Mike Stefanik Passes

Courtesy of Marc “Bones” Bourcier

Damn. Mike Stefanik was one of the most complete short-track racers of his generation. He could build cars, maintain them, and, as the record books prove, he could drive the hell out of ‘em. He won seven NASCAR Modified Tour championships and two NASCAR Busch North titles, and since we’re about the same age, I was lucky enough to see a huge chunk of his career. His biggest post-retirement kick was zooming through the skies in a little kit plane he’d put together. One of Mike’s great joys was taking his boyhood hero and longtime pal Bugs Stevens on a flight last year; I talked to them both by phone that afternoon, and they carried on like teenagers. Now phone calls and text messages and Facebook are telling me that Mike lost his life today, doing what he loved so much: flying. Thinking tonight of his wife and best friend, Julie, and their two girls. It’s little comfort right now, but this much I know: That guy LOVED the career he had, and the life he led. His loss will land like a thud in the Northeast racing community, and a lot of hearts are heavy this evening. RIP, Champion. — Bones

NEAR HOF member Russ Conway passes

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Images Courtesy of
North East Motor Sports Museum
 

Russ Conway

We have lost one of the most prominent figures in the northeast racing community. Russ Conway died yesterday August 20th. He was brought to his first race by his father Paul in 1956 at the Pines Speedway. His father worked on the fire rescue team at the track. His passion for auto racing and its people lasted for his entire life. He got his start writing for the Pines Speedway as a teenager and then attended Northeastern University and got his first major assignment covering the Boston Bruins in 1967 at age 18.

Russ teamed up with Ken Smith and Charlie Elliot in the late 1960s to build Star Speedway and formed NESMRA which ran supermodified races up and down the east coast for over 20 years. He was the co-founder to some of New England’s biggest auto races which are still going strong today. These events include the Star Classic, World Series of Speedway Racing, Oktoberfest of Racing. He worked at the Eagle-Tribune for years and his investigative journalism efforts helped bring down Alan Eagleson on charges of corruption with the National Hockey League Players Association. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He was a part of the original 6 board members with the North East Motor Sports Museum and created its first major annual event, Legends Day.

Funeral and calling hour arrangements have not been finalized.

 

Originally posted by the North East Motor Sports Museum

Mary Hodge passes

NEAR extends it’s deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mary Hodge. Paired with her husband, Howie, they displayed New England Motorsports  through it’s heyday to recent times. The pair were great friends, dedicated professionals, and gave us all a unique view of the sport we love through their lenses. We will miss them dearly, but are happy they are reunited with each other at last. Godspeed.

 

Mary Louise (Garraway) Hodge, 79, of Manchester, the wife of the late Howard Hodge died Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at Manchester Memorial Hospital. Born in Perry County, MS, she was the daughter of the late George and Donnie (Parker) Garraway and had lived in Manchester for many years. She worked at Pratt & Whitney when she first arrived in CT. She will be remembered for her many years as a photographer. She is survived by her son Kevin Hodge of Tolland, her siblings, Janie Bonner and her husband Travis, Marjorie Cary and her husband Jack, and William Garraway, Sr.; and numerous nieces and nephews. Family and friends may call at the John F. Tierney Funeral Home 219 West Center St. Manchester on Monday from 4:00-7:00 pm. Funeral service will be held at the funeral home on Monday at 7:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to Victory Junction Gang Camp 4500 Adams Way, Randleman, NC 27317. For online condolences please visit www.tierneyfuneralhome.com.

 
 
 

HOF Driver George Summers Passes

George J. Summers

George J. Summers

AUGUST 21, 1935 ~ JANUARY 4, 2019 (AGE 83)

George J. (Tucker) Summers, 83, a lifelong Upton resident, passed away as peacefully as he had lived, on January 4th, 2019, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, holding the hand of his wife of 63 years, Margaret A. (Kneeland) Summers.

Born August 21, 1935, to Mary Ellen (Van Riper) and William Reed Summers, he was the youngest of eight children. He is predeceased by six of his siblings: Janet Stockwell (and her husband Richard), Mary Strachen (and her husband James), William Summers, Barbara Knapik (and her husband Eugene), Cecelia Grynsel (and her husband Edward) and Charles Summers.  He is survived by a brother John Summers (and his wife Gloria) and a sister in law, Loretta Costello Summers. 

Educated in the local Upton Grammar school, George attended high school at Worcester Boy’s Trade.  At the age of sixteen, he left school and became a self-made man. In 1952, he went to work driving trucks and operating heavy equipment for local construction companies.  In 1962, George bought his first truck “Ol’ Slow Poke“ and started his trucking business, which now boasts 6 trucks and continues today as George J. Summers Trucking, Inc.

In 1952, George embarked on an auto racing career as a hobby.  For thirty -one years, he raced up and down the east coast from Maine to Martinsville, VA. He had over two hundred career victories, a hundred of them at the Seekonk Speedway, where he holds the title of “Most Career Wins“ in the racetrack’s history.  He also holds the title for the “Most Consecutive Wins“ in one season at the same track. At Seekonk, George also won two track championships, the first one with the Ken Curly modified #31 in 1967.  The second championship was seven years later in 1974, in the Connie LaJoie modified #21.  In 1976, George won the Governor’s Cup Open Competition Series in Oxford Plain, ME. driving the W.D Smith late model #35. He won the last two races of his illustrious career in the Art Barry modified #21 at Oxford Plains Speedway and the following weekend at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut.

Upon his retirement from racing, George became an avid golfer and was a member of the Westboro Country Club.

George was inducted into the New England Auto Racing (NEAR) Hall of Fame, the Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame, and the North East Motor Sports Museum, in Louden, NH, where his Connie LaJoie modified #21 is on display.  This February, he was to be inducted into the Living Legends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, Florida.

In addition to his wife Margaret, George is survived by his four children: George Jr. of Somerville, MA, Mary Summers Cortese and her husband Joe of Upton, Richard Summers and his wife Natalie of Upton, and Kathie Summers Grice and her husband Roy, of Cumberland, ME. He is also survived by his four grandchildren and one great grandchild. Ever the family man, whenever he was racing, his family would travel with him from one race track to another during the racing season. When he wasn’t racing, he was very much invested in the aspirations and activities of his children and much later on, in those of his grandchildren. It should also be noted that in his 31 years of racing, George never missed a Sunday mass.  Wherever he and his family were on a given Sunday, they would attend a mass at one of the local churches before the racing event that day.

His funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 AM on Saturday, January 12th, in St. Gabriel the Archangel Church “The Farm“, 151 Mendon Street, Upton.  Burial will follow in Lakeview Cemetery.

Calling hours will be held on Friday, January 11th, from 3 to 8 PM in the Williams-Pedersen Funeral Home, Inc., 45 Main Street, Upton.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to either the St. Gabriel Building Fund, made payable to St. Gabriel Church, 151 Mendon Street, Upton, MA. 01568 or to the North East Motor Sports Museum, 922 Rte. 106, Louden, NH. 03307.


Donations may be made to:

St. Gabriel Building Fund
151 Mendon Street, Upton MA 01568

North East Motor Sports Museum
922 Rte. 106, Louden NH 03307