I got a phone call one morning back in 2013, the voice on the other end asking, "Is this Tom Letourneau?", to which I gave the usual reply: "Yes, it is, may I ask who's calling?"
"My name is George Younger, I'm in the Alfa Club, and the reason for my call is that I see you are looking for a volunteer to assist you in laying out the TSD Rallye for the upcoming 2015 Convention." George continued on, telling me: "I don't have any background in this, but rallies are something I've always wanted to learn about, and I would really like to get more involved in the Alfa Club and help ... if you could use me!"
And so it began. An almost 8-year friendship developed that I will treasure for the rest of my days. A friendship that along the way drew in Gene Durso, John DeWaele, and Dan Donovan.
As those of you who attended and helped know, the TSD Rallye went off without a hitch, and I'd never have been able to do it without George's help and his unending humor.
Shortly after the first time we met and began the route layout, George informed me of his "project" of restoring a 1966 Duetto. A monumental effort of unimaginable proportions, as I eventually learned, yet one that George was determined to accomplish.
George invited me to his home in Canterbury, CT, in between our rallye route planning sessions to see his project, up close and personal. And PROJECT it was, and then some!
Turns out that, over the years, George had obtained two Duettos in the hope of making one out of the two. In addition, there were Duetto and engine parts all throughout his barn (both floors), many he had purchased, most from his having removed them from the two Duettos. Also was the issue of which of the Duetto shells would be the one used to be the finished project. There was also an issue pertaining to the braking system, as John DeWaele reminded me. Each Duetto had a different braking system, so the question was, "Do I go with the Dunlop system or the ATE?"
Whatever, progress was being made. George also dragged AONE Director George Dolak into this, having him make an all new, complete wiring harness. A wiring harness that turned out to be a work of art! George took the time to label every connection so to simplify all of the electrical hookups.
As mentioned above, while my friendship with George got started because of his volunteering to help with Rallye, it really took off over the past five years because of the Duetto project, during which George taught me the meaning of 'Dogged Perseverance'! George and I grew very close, his often having me over to show me the latest progress with his project, a project that I was to eventually find out had actually gotten started over 13 years ago.
I first met George at an AONE event where he approached me and asked if I was the one who owned a Duetto Spider. It was at this point he was looking for advice on his project cars. He had two Duetto Spiders, his plan being to create one from both of them. A very pleasant man with whom I quickly shared my experiences with my 1969 Duetto Spider.
George invited me to visit and check out his project. As usual, I had a busy schedule working and for a few years never got around to visiting George. But I would always enjoy sharing Duetto stories with him at AONE events that we both attended.
Finally, after I retired, and after apologizing for not yet getting around to visiting his home, I was able to visit George and had a great time working together on his project.
Several visits continued with George, sometimes including other members of the club (John DeWaele, Tom Letourneau and Dan Donovan). He always had a detailed list of work to be completed and would ask me to review the list to see if there was anything missing. He loved his lists and was so organized. Always so grateful for my assistance ... but in reality, I feel I was getting the most out of the encounter.
Our host George and his lovely wife Sue always supplied us with the most delightful lunches. Homemade soup and homemade bread were always part of the meal which I so looked forward to. Not to mention good conversation. George was a wealth of information and I will always cherish our conversations. I truly regret his passing and will miss not being able to work with him on his project. I will, however, think of him often and will miss him very much. He has touched me in a very special way!
John DeWaele came into the picture late in the game and played an extremely important role that George absolutely loved John for.
On a number of visits with the four of us, more and more the question became: "Which shell is going to be the one used?" This had long been a concern, going back to the beginning. The more solid, less rusted shell had a nose that left a lot to be desired, it previously having been bashed and hashed. Finally, because of John DeWaele's suggestions and recommendation of a body shop that did work to perfectionist standards, it was decided to clip the perfect nose off of the spare shell. This was accomplished at George's home shop/barn, the body shop owner personally coming to cut it off and bring it and the Duetto shell to be restored and painted back to his shop.
Shortly before George's passing, the Duetto returned ... painted red! What other color is there? George was ecstatic with the result! He invited John, Gene, Dan and me to visit, which we did a few more times, to kibitz and try to figure out the next step. And as usual, as Gene mentioned, there was George's lovely wife Sue making us lunch ... all homemade, including her delicious homemade crusty Italian bread.
Over the next few months, work also began on the rebuilding of the engine at a vintage car restoration shop in Canterbury. George insisted that he was going to do the work entirely by himself, with an old friend of mine who worked there looking over George's shoulder. (I should, however, mention that Gene Durso also made a few visits, doing likewise.)
Sadly, very sadly, this is where the restoration sits today ... George's dream not yet completed! And, while I cannot divulge what I suspect, it will get done!
In closing, please allow me to share with you a little bit more of George, a side of him that I was the only one privileged to have seen. It's a "Love Story", a story I discussed this past Saturday when I visited Sue at their home in Canterbury. Sue told me, by all means, please include it in your tribute to George!
On one of my visits to George's home, I found him to be like a giddy little kid! He said to me, "You'll never guess what just happened to me! I got a message on FaceBook from a woman asking me if I was the George Younger who grew up outside of Albany, NY, and went to such & such high school." It turned out to be his high school sweetheart!
Over the next few months, while the Duetto was always a part of our conversations during my visits, it was not the #1 agenda item!
Eventually, plans were made for George to drive out to Albany to visit Sue ... actually, more than once! Finally, Sue made the decision to visit George and his 200-plus-year-old home (another restoration project he was working on along with his antique wooden sailboat). Over not that long a period of time, they were married!
As I alluded above ... a "Love Story" if ever there was one!
One last thing: As Sue and I sat and chatted yesterday, she told me that, in her lifetime, all the way back to high school, she never met such a loving and caring man as George. She also told me that George was the first boy she'd ever kissed!!!
I was blessed to have seen George's caring nature, and quite a few other characteristics that he possessed, as were John, Gene, Dan, and a number of other AONE Members who had been fortunate to have known him.