Archive for the 'Eastern States' Category

NEAR Hall of Famer Rene Charland Passes at 84

Rene Charland “Da Champ”: November 13, 1928 – September 30, 2013

Rene M Charland, legendary stock car driver who blazed numerous tracks from Canada to Florida passed away peacefully on Monday Sept 30 at the Wilkinson Residential Care Facility in Amsterdam, NY where he had resided for the past several years.

Mr Charland was born in Chicopee, MA on November 13, 1928 the son of Adelard and Noella Lamoureux Charland. After serving his time in the US Marines and Merchant Marines, Mr Charland resettled in the Chicopee area and later was a resident of Agawam, MA before locating to Upstate NY in the 1960’s. After returning from his act of duty in the service he tried on many masks, working for Remington Arms in Springfield, Ma and running his own speed shop and radio station before turning the throttle full bore on his racing career which began in 1947.

Rene was a 4-time Nascar National Sportsman Champion from 1962 thru 1965. He was one of the original Eastern Bandits that enjoyed tickling the skills of the drivers in the South. He was also a member of the AllStar League for many years. He was inducted into many Hall of Fames thru-out his life span; the New England Antique Racers(NEAR), Dirt Motorsports ,Riverside Park, Fonda Speedway, Utica-Rome and Albany-Saratogas as well as many more. He was named as one of Nascar’s Top 50 Drivers at Stafford Motor Speedway as well. His career wins exceeded 800, his track championships were numerous and covered many states in the country to achieve his records.

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NEAR Hall of Famer Red Foote Passes at 85

Red_FooteFOOTE, Melvin “Red,” 85, of Chesterfield, went to be with the Lord on Sunday, February 3, 2013. Red is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Loretta Foote; his stepdaughter, Linda Strasburg; stepgrandson, Michael (TiAnna) Talley; stepgranddaughter, Michelle (Richard) King; sisters-in-law, Rev. Beverly J. Samford and Julianna Duke.

Red enjoyed racing stockcars for 35 years, is formerly known as one of the “Eastern Bandits” and was inducted into the New England Hall of Fame for racecar drivers in 1999. After retirement he spent much time at Newpoint Campground on his boat fishing. Red was devoted to his cats and his good friends at Dutchgap. Red will be remembered for his quick wit, humor and willingness to help others and will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

The family will receive friends from 2 to 4 and 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 7 at Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service, 6500 Iron Bridge Rd (Rte 10). His graveside service will be February 8, 2013 at 2 p.m. at Bethel UMC Cemetery in Alberta, Va., with the Rev. Beverly J. Samford officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Richmond SPCA at 2519 Hermitage Road, Richmond, Va. 23220.

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1966 West Haven Speedway Champion Red O’Keefe Passes Away

May 17, 1932 – August 9, 2012

Red O'Keefe former West Haven Speedway champion Red O’Keefe passed-away on August 9, 2012.

Red, who had turned 80 earlier this year, was a standout New England modified competitor for many seasons claiming feature events at a number of the regions speedways.

He was the 1966 West Haven Speedway track champion and nearly repeated in ’67 placing second to fellow United Stock Car Racing Club star, the late Johnny “King” Cambino. The winning margin for that’s years title race was a scant single point.

In reminiscing about Red’s career, family friend Mike Guerette stated “Red probably had his best years at West Haven competing in the tough Non-Ford division. He also built his own cars, always with an emphasis on safety. He added innovations like front & rear firewalls, a fire extinguisher, and a full roll cage not unlike today’s NASCAR designs. In addition to his championship, he also received many other awards at West Haven such as “Top Driver/Mechanic” and “Most Popular Driver.”

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NEAR Presents “Class of 2012” At 15th Annual New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Inductions

East Windsor, CT — On Sunday January 29, The New England Antique Racers (NEAR), presented the 15th annual New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Inductions. Award-winning sportswriter Matt Buckler served as Master of Ceremonies for the well-attended event held at LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT.

Receiving induction honors this year were drivers Reggie Ruggiero, Joey Kourafas, Moe Gherzi, Jerry Humiston, and Roland Lapierre Sr., owner/mechanics Mario Fiore and Jim Jorgensen and track operator Irene Venditti.

Though not present due to prior commitments, longtime Northern media personality Dave Moody was the recipient of the prestigious “Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award.” Veteran auto racing journalist and Hall of Fame Member Pete Zanardi received the Danny Pardi Memorial Award for his many contributions to NEAR over the years.

A pivotal figure during the formative years of the sport and truly one of the regions earliest stars, Moe Gherzi came to stock cars following a brief fling with midget racing during the busy post-war era. Gherzi won for some of the best teams in the early days of the sport while displaying a flashy style which became his trademark. Nicknamed “Moneybags” owed to a knack of winning many big-dollar events, he tasted success at virtually all of the regions tracks. He later served as the longtime Racing Director at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium. Accepting for her late father from presenter Dave Dykes was Ms. Alma Michaud.

[Photo Galleryby Nicholas Teto

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Former #144 Car Owner Bill Lyons Passes at 68

LYONS, William Phelps William Phelps Lyons, 68, of Granby, beloved husband of Anna L. (Blomquist) Lyons, passed away on Thursday (February 28, 2008) at St. Francis Hospital. Born in Westfield, MA, son of the late Newton and Edith Mae (Long) Lyons, he was a lifelong Granby resident. Bill was employed by the Town of Granby for over 40 years, retiring in 2001 as the Director of the Public Works Department. He was also a member and former Captain of the Lost Acres Volunteer Fire Department. Bill had many interests including collector of belt buckles, piggy banks, race cars, and airplanes.

He was the owner of a stock car #144, and raced at Riverside Park, Eastern States, and at other stock car raceways in New England. He enjoyed antique car restoration and woodworking, specifically making birdhouses and whirly gigs. At Christmas time, he made and donated many wreaths and crosses. An avid hunter and fisherman, after his retirement, Bill enjoyed helping out at Young Farms in East Granby.

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