Remembering Al Delessio

Al Delessio (left) with his 1967 Mercury S-55.

Al Delessio (left) with his 1967 Mercury S-55.

By Tim Cleary

Way too soon.

Long-time IMOA member Al Delessio passed away Aug. 27 at the age of 58. He lived his whole life in northern Pennsylvania and worked for one company his entire career.

He had battled the big C and dealt with all the related junk. When he had to go through another round of chemo he always said, “Tim, what can we do, but what the doctors tell us to do?”

Al was pure class and a lifelong car lover and Mercury aficionado. He used his cars as drivers and even used his wagon at work in the vending business. When he told me he could fit a vending machine in the back of his wagon, just like back in the 1960s, I had to smile. How many people were doing that in 2015?

Al’s daily driver was a 1990 Mercury Colony Park station wagon and he was always on the lookout for more wagons to find and fix up. He was a super positive person and just loved talking cars. He loved station wagons and was a memory machine on the old cars that he loved all of his life.

His pride and joys were a rare S55 Mercury 428 and a 1967 Cougar. Like every car addict, Al always had a car he was tracking down through calls he got from people who knew to call him about any Mercury product that was somewhere out there, calling his name.

Al's 1967 Mercury S-55.

Al’s 1967 Mercury S-55.

Is it torture or pleasure overload when a car lover hears about a car that sounds so sweet, so amazing, so perfect, we simply must go to see it or at least call the owner? That’s how I want to remember Al. I would freeze him in that moment, ready to go see the rare low-mileage car he had just heard about.

If there was a pill for this sickness we shared, Al would not take it. There is always a great find around the corner. Al had a childlike excitement when he would recount to me what he had just heard about that would send both us into old car station wagon orbit.

His wife and daughter were very supportive and even drove some of the cars he loved for their daily activities. That is one sweet family unit.

I could talk his language. That’s what car buddies do. We listen and add positive feedback, and fan the flames of excitement. One log on a fire is about as exciting as a candidate’s debate. It takes two to really go into the stratosphere and that’s why I loved talking to Al.

And that’s why I now feel so sad and alone and diminished.

I knew he was in the hospital, but I kept calling. There was a lady with a 1991 Ford Country Squire that was close to him. She wanted to see the car go to a good home. I kept calling, but I got no response. I was nervous about his health.

Then my phone rang. It said Al Delessio. I answered, relieved and excited to know he was OK.

I said, “Hello, Al!” But it was his daughter in tears to tell me Al was gone.

Al didn’t care about trophies or shiny paint. That is the mark of a man with a strong self image and a grasp of what matters in our short time on this earth.

Now he is gone. Who will replace the Al Delessios?

He was a Packer fan because he watched the first Super Bowl. A Mercury man because he was there for the glory days. A gentle person who never said a bad word about anybody. A junkyard expert who knew where all the parts were hiding.

The younger generation is great and they can use GPS and find out where there is a $6 IPA beer or a $4 cup of coffee. But they never got to grow up with these old classic rides. That’s part of what makes Al Delessio impossible to replace.

Who can I call tonight that had Al’s knowledge and passion and love for our hobby? What will happen to our hobby and our wagons when all the Al Delessios are gone?

Please don’t use them in demolition derbies. Please don’t let them sit unused in a garage. Please don’t part them out for some tarted up two door that needs a front clip.

Think of Al and shine up a dusty one. Get it running and take it to a show. Tell the folks passing by about the car and a man named Al who made our hobby so sweet for the folks who were lucky enough to know him.

There will never be another Al Delessio.