Goodbye My Friend
It’s the phone call you never want to receive. We’ve all had them in our lives. You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Maybe it was the time of day, the sound of the ringtone, but I knew as soon as my phone rang.
From conversations with John’s family, I knew he wasn’t getting better. In fact his health was deteriorating faster than anyone expected. At the Lucas race at Cecil County that weekend, nearly all my conversations with John’s fellow racers and friends centered around John’s health.
I met John DiBartolomeo in his days racing the Puerto Rican Dream Super Gas car in D1. My friend Dave Bishop knew John well and made sure I got to meet the man. Later I got to know his wife Dottie, and children Franklin and Christina.
Over the years I had the pleasure to supply John with images and an occasional story for the magazines he worked for and later, the website I had the pleasure to partner with him on. In addition to helping with photography at his son’s wedding in 2014.
I am not going to eulogize John. I couldn’t even touch on how much he did for friends, family, and the sport of drag racing. There are so many eloquent tributes from friends like Richard Shute, Jon Asher, and many others on social media. Attached is one from the heart from a fellow photographer Richard Brady who, like me, owed John a huge debt of gratitude for all he had done for him personally, and the sport as a whole.
Letter to John
I was on my way back home, from a trip up to Billings, Montana, when my cell phone rang. I grabbed it and answered to find it was John D, as we all called him, on the other end and I pulled over so as not to lose the signal! The jest of what he told me left me pretty much numb and speechless at the time, because what words can someone say to a friend, in the case a very close friend, who has called to tell you that he has “Pancreatic Cancer” one of the more deadliest forms of Cancer out there, with little to no chance of total survival!
I really can’t say when John D and I first became friends, probably 20 or 25 years ago at the very least, maybe longer! As time went on he would call on me to shoot this or that car in action or to do a car feature for one of the many magazines he was the Editor for over the years and even had me pony up some material for his newest venture, the internet site, “Drag Racing Action on Line”!
After the NHRA unceremoniously dropped me and others from National Dragster, I gave John D a call because I had no idea at all what direction I should go, I was aimlessly lost but he made a suggestion that ultimately allowed me to continue to be involved in Drag Racing a few more years! His suggestion was to write a column for him, called, “Remember When”. To me the early columns were crude but as time went on I truly got into it and I also continued to support the magazine with car features and the all-important Drag Race coverage.
When I started with my own medical issues, heart surgery and cancer, John D would call Sharyl after to each of those surgeries to see how I was doing, and as soon as I was able I would call him and we would talk about all sorts of subjects. He cared! He was the kindest man I had ever met, or in this case worked for! I recall once that I was at a race and got stuck with the whole motel bill that I was to split with someone and as things happen, the deal fell through, and I told John D about it on Sunday morning in pre-race, and he gave me the job of me driving to a company, on Monday morning and shooting all the photo’s for a Tech Article he would be doing and he made sure when I was paid for the photo’s for that article that there was some extra towards that motel bill! People like John D are hard to find in my book! I don’t recall that he ever got upset with me or anyone else for that matter. Our friendship seemed to me to be written in stone and I’m very thankful it was! John was a special guy, a true Sportsman racer, who when not racing his own cars, would be out on the start line shooting photo’s of both the Sportsman cars as well as the Pro cars. He Championed the Sportsman Racer, and why not he was one himself and a multiple Major Race Winner.
I always respected John D, and I know lot’s of others did too, what was not to like, he was one of a kind in my book! As it does in most cases this Cancer took hold of him and there was no way to stop it. He will be missed by all who knew him and had contact with him. Life is really so fleeting and don’t we all wish that we could change the outcome at various times, whether it’s someone in our own family, or the great friend we knew. I know I do!
I saw a photo of John D about a week ago, which prompted me to call him to talk! We played phone tag for a couple days, but when I did get him, it appeared that I had woke him up, something I never meant to do, I apologized and ended the call, with the hopes he might go back to sleep and I told him I’d call the following week, but now I can’t do that, but I will have memories of him for the rest of my life…
My condolences to his wife Dottie, his son Franklin, and his daughter Christina.