We Called Him Junior

Junior was a larger than life character. The Laurel referred to him as legendary. If he hadn’t been born Damon Runyon would have surely been forced to invent him.

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.

7 thoughts on “We Called Him Junior”

  1. OMG. I hadn’t heard out here in Santa Fe. We were classmates at Centerville School in Hamden. I delivered the Register among other newspapers to his Mom and photographer Dad. I always made a point of getting there to collect just as they finished dinner very Friday, as his Mom would offer me some of the best homemade Italian cooking I’d ever has anywhere in the School St and Washington Ave area of Centerville. When I went off to college to study Radio/TV, he had already established himself as THE go-to stringer for the entire New Haven area. And had been since the day he got his drivers license at 16. He was a really good guy who spent a lifetime doing what he loved. He will be missed. A lot.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss and for Junior’s family. “Blindsided” is an apt description of these sad tragedies and losses we will all go through in our lives. We know we will lose people, but one is still, never ready. He sounded like a great guy. So sorry.

  3. John Mongillo Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps…although Jr. took it up a notch. Johnny Mong did work for The New Haven Register & Journal Courier often getting byline billing for his breaking stories and exclusive photo’s.
    His dad was great too. A film videographer and editor at Channel 8, Sr. retired as a facilities manager in the new studios on Elm Street.
    I will miss Jr.’s quips: “Kid, I’m getting to old to do this stuff.” Mong- loved your passion for breaking news. Thank you for wisdom.

    Kevin Hogan

  4. I’m sorry for the loss you all have suffered. May you all be blessed by the good memories of his having been in your lives.

  5. I never got to know “Junior”, but I had met him once or twice, untold years ago. I had worked with “Senior” when I was on staff at WTNH back in…(exact dates omitted to protect my false illusion of perpetual youth :). Suffice to say, it was definitely before you started there, Geoff.) “Senior” was great and always quite pleasant and helpful to me. (Before I began directing, I started out as a studio tech, and one of my assigned duties each evening was to help out in the news room with editing stories for “the 11 O’clock”…believe it or not, we were editing both videotape and FILM at that point! “Senior”, Jack Young and Pat Child all taught me invaluable editing skills that have held me in good stead ever since. At that time women on the tech side of the industry were still a bit of a rarity…but Mong didn’t seem to mind too much. Although I suspect he had some reservations–but if he did, he kept them to himself. Back then, I sometimes heard him refer to “Junior” as “the kid”…who was clearly following in his dad’s footsteps. Jack Young and (John)”Senior” always kept the police scanners on while they were working in the ‘film department’ (Yeah, nowdays everyone would say, “…the WHAT department???”). The scanners helped ensure that he or “Junior” could be first (Stringer) on the scene of any unfolding disaster.) I still remember the rush to ‘get the film out of the soup’ (developed) and edited in time to make the 11 o’clock show (aka, the famous scene from Broadcast News). But, somehow, we almost always made it. None of us realized it at the time, but those WERE the good old days.
    It’s hard to believe that ‘the kid’ is now gone. Godspeed, Mong…

  6. John was on the scene at all the major fires in New Haven. Just like his father he had the best (usually the first) photos and videos. The Mongillo name is legendary. Jeff is correct – The number of people you know who die out of the blue climbs quickly…We thank John for the memories he has left behind.. He is gone but not forgotten.

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