Here’s the problem with getting older. The number of people you know who die out of the blue climbs quickly. John Mongillo, Jr. died last night. We called him Junior. I’ve known John since coming to Connecticut nearly 30 years ago.
Junior was a larger than life character in every way. The Laurel referred to him as legendary. If he hadn’t been born Damon Runyon would have surely been forced to invent him.
In the news business Junior was what’s known as a stringer. He wasn’t an employee of any newspaper or TV station, though he worked for them all.
He’d call the assignment desk any hour of the day-or-night with a tip about someone getting shot or getting caught or that there had been a horrific accident. Of course he’d also have video and stills to sell.
Back in the day Junior’s video might run simultaneously on three stations at once! His stills would be in the paper the next morning. Life’s tragedies were a large part of John’s business.
He was a larger-than-life presence. When Junior walked into a room everyone knew him. Everyone walked up to shake his big hand. He was as well known by the firemen, cops and judges as he was by the perps and their attorneys.
We used to kid “Mong” (larger than life characters can have multiple nicknames) he was often at the scene of the crime before the crime! I’m not sure that was totally a joke.
My most recent contacts with Junior always originated on his end. He’d call asking me to mention some charity event on-the-air. I always did. Doing good deeds like this is always good for the organization involved.
On the other end of the charity was a cop or fireman or someone who’d helped Junior or whose help Junior wanted in the future. The charity was legit. The event was legit. In the end everyone benefited by John’s favor… including John.
This afternoon I heard from Diane Smith, Ann Nyberg and Bob Picozzi. All wanted to make sure I knew and as Bob added, “Every memory I have of Junior is a funny one. What greater tribute can there be than that?”
I called his wife earlier today. She cried the tears of someone blindsided. She wondered what she would do… how she’d go on? What do you say? Some questions can’t be answered.
“Hi Geoff, it’s Junior.” I’ll miss that call.