“If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts.”—Counting Crows, from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby.”
For years to come, people who knew and loved Joe Sgro, the 63-year-old Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats principal who died last Thursday from injuries sustained in a boating accident near Marathon, Fla., will tell stories about him. Not being a psychologist, I’d have to guess that’s one way we process grief. Storytelling keeps those we’ve lost alive—if only in our memories—forever.
Shortly before heading to an unforgettable dinner in Washington, N.C., Sgro (in red shirt) struck a pose with the record-setting Outerlimits team. Photo courtesy/copyright Speedonthewater.com.
So here is my favorite Joe Sgro story.
In late April 2014, the Outerlimits crew including Sgro and company founder Mike Fiore, Fiore’s father, Paul, Mark and Nancy Tuck, Dan Davies, Dave Scotto and Michael “Doc” Janssen descended on the small town of Washington, N.C., to try to set a new V-bottom kilometer record. Though they raised the bar the first day, they didn’t raise it enough to satisfy Sgro or Fiore, so the Outerlimits crew, which was joined by driver Brian Forehand as well as Erik Christiansen and Mike Griffiths of Mercury Racing, decided to stay the night and have at it again the next morning.
Washington isn’t loaded with dining options, but it does have a solid Italian joint called Marabella Pizza And Grill. It’s not a big place, so our party took over most of the restaurant. As we filed inside, Reggie Fountain, Jr., the founder of nearby Fountain Powerboats, was on his way out. Impeccable Southern gentleman that he is, Fountain greeted our group, particularly Sgro and Fiore, warmly.
The day had been successful and the next held even more promise, so the group was in a loud and celebratory mood. Beer and wine fueled the stories of the day, and the stories of yesterday, while we waited for our meals. Mostly quiet but with a grin that could not be wiped from his face, Sgro sat there among some of his favorite people, commenting now and then, but mostly just enjoying the joyful chaos around him.
In a move that would have made my Italian grandmother—who taught me that if some is good then more is better—proud, Sgro ordered pizzas as “appetizers” for our group. When they arrived, he grabbed one of the pies, strolled from table to table and served slices. Maybe it was the beer and wine, but Joe Sgro playing waiter was enough to get everyone howling with laughter. Quiet and shy by nature—but knowing a good thing when he saw one—Sgro played it up for the crowd. And the laughter got louder.
It was a small moment, one of many thousands of moments in the rich life of Joe Sgro, but one I’ll never forget. I was blessed to follow many of his adventures with Fiore, from an offshore race in Malta, to a poker run in Buffalo, to a pair of unforgettable days—and one great dinner with a special waiter in town for just one night—in North Carolina.
Thank you, Joe Sgro. Like many who knew you, I’ll be honored to continue to tell your stories.
Now, rest in peace.