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


 
 
 

HOF member Bob Judkins Sr. passes

Obituary for Robert Judkins Sr.

Robert Judkins Sr.

Robert L. Judkins Sr, age 83, beloved husband of Angela M. (Gorneau) Judkins, died on Thursday, October 25, 2018, at Apple Rehab Center in Middletown, CT after a lengthy illness. He was born in South Paris, Maine on September 12, 1935, he was the son of the late Herman and Eva (Learned) Judkins. He had resided in Meriden, CT and in Edgewater, FL, returning to Connecticut in 2017. 

Mr. Judkins was the owner and operator of Judkins Garage in Berlin, CT. Bob was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, having served from July 1958 to July 1960. Bob was most notable for his on-the-track achievements in the New England area, running the famed number 2x modified race car. In the sixties, Judkin’s ’37 Ford Coupe dominated the track with drivers Jerry Wheeler, Tony Mordino, Billy Harmon, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Gene Bergin, Kenny Shoemaker and legendary driver Ed Flemke. Then in 1971, Judkins introduced a new style of race car, hanging a Ford Pinto body on the famous 2x. Stafford Motor Speedway’s Jack Arute tried to convince NASCAR to allow the 2x to run, telling Bill France, Sr that the new body style was the “future of racing”. Once cleared by NASCAR, the Judkins 2x Pinto Revolution began. In the seventies, eighties and nineties, Judkins continued to compete and took the famed 2x into victory lane. Drivers Ed Flemke, Ron Bouchard, Reggie Ruggerio, Brett Bodine, Jerry Marquis – with three consecutive track championships at Riverside Park Speedway – and Dave Caruso helmed the 2x. In Bob’s fifth decade of fielding a race car, Judkins continued to be highly competitive and won track championships at both the Orlando Speedworld and New Smyrna Speedway with driver Jason Boyd. However, Bob’s last win in 2009 would be one he would not forget, when his grandson Ryan Preece took his famed 2x into victory lane to complete Bob’s illustrious racing career. Bob was inducted in N.E.A.R (New England Auto Racers) Class of 2003 Hall of Fame.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his six daughters, Tanya Griffin (Martin), Brenda Judkins, Jodie Preece (Jeffrey) Loretta Judkins, Laura Leith (Jeffrey) Jessica Judkins (Blaine Gaudette); his son, Robert Judkins Jr (Vanessa); his 10 grandchildren, Michael and Alissa Ferraro, Sean Preece, Matthew Preece (Tara), Ryan Preece (Heather), Joshua, Zachary and Erica Guidobono, Jarret Leith and Emily Gaudette; and his two sisters, Winona G. Farrington and Pamela Judkins. He was pre-deceased by his sister Gloria Carro. 

A celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at the John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home, 88 East Main St., Meriden, CT 06450. Family and friends may call at the funeral home prior to the service from 3:30 to 7:30. Burial will follow at a later date. For online condolences and directions, please visit jferryfh.com.

NEAR original founder Ed Clark passes

The  entire  NEAR  Membership  offers  it’s  deepest  condolences  to  the family  and  friends  of  Ed  Clark.  Ed  was  one  of  the  original  founding  members  of  our  club.  New  England  Racing  will  be  forever  indebted  to  Ed  for  his  efforts  to  preserve  and  publicize  it’s  rich  history. R.I. P. good  sir.

 

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EDWARD ARTHUR CLARK
December 10, 1939 – August 11, 2018

CLARK, Edward A. — Edward A. Clark (Eddie), 78, of Palm Coast, FL, beloved husband of Diane (Leone) Clark passed from this life on August 11, 2018. Mr. Clark was born in Meriden, CT, and was the son of the late George H. Clark and Carmelina (Bazzano) Clark. 

Mr. Clark was a longtime resident of East Hartford, CT, prior to moving to Palm Coast, FL, in 1983. In East Hartford, he was active in the community serving as president of the East Hartford Little League in the 1970s and was a member of the East Hartford Elks Lodge #2063. Mr. Clark worked for Mashkin Freightlines from 1964 to 1983 where he was a member of Teamsters Local 559. In Palm Coast, he served as a volunteer firefighter in the mid-1980s, and over the years continued to be active in the Flagler County community as a member of the Italian American Club and Palm Coast Elks Lodge #2709. He also worked with the Flagler County Kiwanis. When first moving to Palm Coast, Mr. Clark worked for ITT Community Development Corporation at Palm Coast Home Realty as a property manager, and in 1992, worked with his wife to open Budget Property Management in 1992 until 2017. 

Mr. Clark was an avid NASCAR fan and was a racing pioneer in his own right as he was a  founder of the New England Antique Racers Association (NEAR) with the original vision of preserving New England stock car racing history. He followed his father George Clark’s footsteps by serving as a NASCAR technical inspector and official from 1960 to 1982. Mr. Clark was also a Navy veteran who served onboard the USS Tarawa CV-40 from 1956 to 1958. 

Along with his wife of 53 years, he is survived by his son, Jeffrey Clark and his wife Missy of Naples, FL; his daughter, Kelly Brandt, and daughter, Amy Bowes and her husband William of Palm Coast, FL. He also leaves his eight grandchildren, Adrianna Brandt, Jacob Brandt, Trevor Brandt, Samuel Bowes, and John Bowes of Palm Coast, FL, and Nicolette Clark, Madelaine Clark, and Charles Clark of Naples, FL. He also leaves his brother, George H. Clark, Jr., and his wife Rosemary of East Hartford, CT, and many nephews and nieces.

 Friends and relatives are respectfully invited to a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Palm Coast, FL, on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at 11 a.m. A visitation will be held before mass from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. in the memorial room. 

Mr. Clark was an avid animal lover and the family requests in lieu of flowers for any memorial donations to be made in his name to the Flagler County Humane Society, 1 Shelter Drive, Palm Coast, FL 32137. 

The family of Mr. Clark entrusted the arrangements to Clymer Funeral Home & Cremations

VISITATION

Saturday August 25, 2018 , 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church 
Click for Map and Directions

MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL

Saturday August 25, 2018 , 11:00 AM at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church 
Click for Map and Directions

 

Racer, Historian, NEAR standout Tom Ormsby passes

By Bones Bourcier

8/8/18 ……. Sad day today. The first time I ever set foot in a race shop, on a night more than 45 years ago, it was Tom Ormsby’s little garage in Bristol, CT. His black coupe, shown here, was being attended to by Tom and a few other men. They were all blue-collar guys, and, after they had put in a full day’s work someplace, they were spending their evening hours helping get the #60 ready for Saturday night’s race at nearby Plainville Stadium. I’d been to a bunch of races by then, and I’d already fallen in love with the sport. But that visit to Ormsby’s shop showed me, for the first time, that racing was more about people than about machines, something that is true at every level of the sport. I lost track of Tom for a while after Plainville closed in 1981, but decades later he was at the forefront of the racing nostalgia movement in New England, and I’d sometimes see him when I returned home. In recent years he moved to Florida, and last night he died there after a long illness. Racers like him, those thousands of weekend journeymen, never completely understand how many lives they touch. RIP, Tom. — Bones

 
 
 

NEAR Hall of Famer Gardiner Leavitt passes

Submitted by Phil  Whipple
 
 
 
Gardiner Leavitt, the legendary driver, car builder, parts supplier, and Maine racing icon
passed away on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, with family by his side. He was 87.
Leavitt raced on the dirt of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the high-banks of Dover  (Delaware) International Speedway
and numerous short tracks in the  northeastern United  States and eastern Canada.
Affectionately known as “The Geezer from Kezar,” Leavitt’s 60-plus year involvement in
auto racing began at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in 1951. His red and white No. 35
entry was a familiar sight for race fans around southern Maine.
When the original NASCAR North Tour was created in 1979, Leavitt decided it was time
to try something new. After 12 years competing in NASCAR events from North Carolina
and Virginia to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Leavitt retired as a driver to take on
the new role of tutoring young drivers.
For over 50 years, Leavitt wore the hats of race driver, car owner, teacher, fabricator and
race parts supplier. Leavitt and wife June touched more lives and influenced more young
drivers than perhaps any other couple in New England. Leavitt was a member of the
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame and
was inducted into the NEAR Hall in November of 2017.
On behalf of President Paul Masse and full membership at NEAR, our thoughts and
prayers go out to June, Steve and the entire Leavitt family at this difficult time. Gardiner’s
impact on New England racing was huge, and his legacy will live on for generations to
come.