A Family Affair

By John DeWaele

Back in September of 1969, a few months out of high school, I landed a job at Picard Motors in Smithfield, Rhode Island. For a kid who dreamed night and day of sports cars, this was the Holy Grail! Picard was a dealer for MG, Triumph, Austin, Volvo, and Toyota. Before my time, he also had Alfa Romeo and Lotus; during my time, he acquired Porsche and Audi. Get this — he gave up the Toyota franchise because he “doubted it would go anywhere”!

My job, although it initially was only for a week to paint and organize the factory tool board, turned into a bit of a career after ol’ Carlos (for the second time) forgot to put the drain plug back in the oil pan of a ‘67 Lotus Élan he had just finished servicing (I guess that big puddle of oil wasn’t a clue). After the owner picked up the Lotus, took off, and came to a very abrupt stop, Carlos got the bum’s rush and I was the new “Lubrication Technician”.

I met and became close friends with the Porsche-Audi Parts Manager, a chap called Tom Letourneau. Tom and I started carpooling and he introduced me to the Narragansett Sports Car Club, a great club with a terrific group of folks (sound familiar?) and a lot of events, rallies, and autocrosses. We ran numerous rallies in Tom’s equipped Corona and autocrossed my MGB with our club and with a few of the other clubs in the area; it seemed there was some sort of event every other weekend.

Over the years, our paths changed; I got into Porsche-Audi sales and Tom went to work for the Porsche factory, traveling around New England just about every week. I eventually got out of the sales gig and started a career in photography; Tom also got into photography and juggled a pretty successful studio while maintaining a career in the auto industry.

With our busy schedules, we did not see each other often (sadly, the Narraganset SCC faded away), but we always kept in touch. In the spring of 1977, I bought my ‘74 Spider and met Lauren a couple of months later. This was my second Alfa, the first being a pristine green 1750 GTV (which I sold with as much foresight as the guy who gave up the Toyota franchise). I don’t remember exactly when, but Tom bought a beautiful Alfa Milano, which had previously been driven around town by Roberto Guerrero when he drove the Alfa Romeo-powered Indy Car. Tom and I were both AONE members at that time but not as involved as we are these days. Four years later, when Lauren and I planned our wedding, Tom was the photographer of choice. As usual, he went above and beyond, providing us with award-winning photography and wonderful memories.

Fast forward 30 years (and I do mean fast!) to October of this year, when number-one son John marries Malinda. Of course, the photograph that had to be recreated was the one that Tom set up with Lauren and me posing with the Alfa; and, in case you’re wondering, this Alfa will never be sold.

I am always amazed at how these wonderful cars impact our lives; friendships are formed, camaraderie abounds, and great fun is had by us all. And then, there are the memories.

Thanks, Tom!Tiny Quadrifoglio

In 1981, Lauren & John DeWaele pose in front of their '74 Spider on their wedding day ...

... and in 2011, Malinda and John Jr strike a similar pose with the very same Alfa

A Family Affair