The ceremony went well, I was the 1st speaker good thing I wrote a well thought out eulogy, it was really funny because several people he knew came to me afterwards and said they always thought his crazy stories about skate boarding, surfing, and other adventures were probably a bunch of crap…then here I come and verify everything he had been telling them all along.
My brother had turned to the Church that last several years and been assisting families with kids, even when he ran out of money and could no longer work, all the people in his circle really respected him including the children…actions are always stronger than words.
His son spoke next and it was truly amazing the way his eulogy interwove with mine, we had a long conversation after the ceremony. Ollie’s son Raymond got hit three times with the good looks stick that is in the gene pool, he is on the level with JFK Junior, George Clooney, and Jon Hamm…and that may be an understatement.
Here is the Tribute I presented:
Good afternoon – I’m Patrick Latronica and I have a lot to say so get comfortable.
I come to you knowing a secret…actually it is more of a truth…
I learned it 60 days ago…it came at a terrible price…
It is something I would like to share with others
But have found it is something you can’t tell…
Like trying to describe a magnificent sunset…
Words do not come close…all I can say is…that all the things in normal life that we strive for
Success, a house, financial stability, and things…
Mean nothing, only those you love have any true value…
And saying this only scratches the surface of that truth….
Like saying I saw an awesome twilight does not describe the beauty of it
I think Jodi knows what I’m talking about…
God…Help us turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter as we celebrate
Ollie Raymond Latronica
I don’t think anyone knew him better than me
I spoke with Ollie on the phone some time ago after he was given his diagnosis
He seemed to be so concerned about events in life that had not went well
I told him that you should focus on the good stuff, that there has
Always been far more good…
So I will reflect today on some things that I find to be good…
Ollie and I did almost everything together well in to our late teens
We had separate lives, we were different people, but we were
intimately connected as brothers can only be.
My earliest memory of Ollie amazes me since I was just two years old, in fact this may be my earliest memory of all…driving with my father and sister to the hospital and my mom holding him up to the window so we could see him.
We played through childhood together and in the 60’s you needed to be creative, we did not have all the stuff kids have now.
We had collected little pro football helmets from a promotion at foster freeze I believe…some of you may remember them they were the size of a golf ball. We had the full set and invented our own game. We used an unshelled almond as a football and would play in our parent’s living room. The games would go on for hours up and back the teams would battle back in forth on my parent’s carpet. Sometimes our parents would watch, if both were there it was a sellout crowd…years later you could still see the extra wear in my poor mother’s carpet from where these epic games took place.
We also created a far more intense game, we took a small rubber ball, wrapped it in newspaper taped it real good, made a basketball hoop about 8 inches in diameter and taped it over the doorway in the kitchen so we could play indoor basketball, this was long before the nerf ball. The paper around the ball was intended to keep it from damaging anything, but with our intense competitive spirit we inevitable got in serious trouble with our mother…my Mom is something to have allowed that craziness to take place in her kitchen, she instinctively knew something about having two extremely active boys that allowed her to navigate with us to adulthood, a truly wonderful mom we have.
We even played one on one football in the street, we had a lot of rules to make it work and we even had passing plays, I can’t remember everything about how it worked, but we would play until it got too dark to see…our competitive nature ran as deep as an ocean…
We along with our sister made up words or sayings one that comes to mind is Uh-o-ma-guck-o…I don’t know where that came from, but I still say it to this day when something goes wrong.
My father loved sports and was a scratch golfer until he tragically passed at an early age, the day after he won yet another tournament and he was legally blind…we had a trophy rack full of his amateur tournament wins.
Ollie and I were brought up with a golf club in our hands and were both excellent golfers. When we went to golf camp as little boys either he or I won almost every competition we were in.
We also played in the big three football, baseball, and basketball…Ollie excelled as an athlete in every sport, always a starter and usually the best player on the team. I would like to think him constantly competing with his older brother helped make him the great athlete he was…his trophy rack was very full.
When we were in our early twenties we went to my sister and her husband’s house in Lakewood for dinner our parents were there. They had a basketball hoop on their garage in the driveway, Ollie and I played a game of one on one. With our father looking on and making rulings on fouls and plays, this was maybe our most intense competition ever, a chance to impress dad. The elbows hit hard the drives to the hoop were full contact, we were both in our top physical condition. Somehow I defeated Ollie in that game, don’t ask me how, I would have beat on him. I consider that one of my greatest athletic achievements, that is how much I respect by brothers skills.
Ollie and I began swimming at an early age, Ollie excelled on the swim team, and many more trophies were gained. After a meet one summer we managed to get 12 people in a Volkswagen car, just one of those crazy let’s try it things people did in the 60’s…it was great fun, we spoke of it for years…it looked like one of those clown cars when we got out…so funny.
We were in the first wave of skateboarders, the test pilots for all who came after us. We rode the first urethane wheels and took our craft to every ditch, riverbed, and spillway that had concrete on it in southern California.
We were the first to ride swimming pools and skated with the most famous skaters of the 70’s, we knew them all. Many of you may have seen the recent commercial showing Tom Simms inventing the snowboard, we knew the Simms family well, they lived nearby us. The funny thing is the garage in the commercial looks incredibly like their garage, we visited it often to purchase wheels and boards.
We went to school with George Orton the inventor of the modern aerial, he came to us to teach him how to skate. We had so many adventures skating together it would take a book to recount them, discovering unknown spots, meeting great risk takers like ourselves, and even saving the injured. I designed and built one of the first skate parks and Ollie’s input into the project was invaluable, I respected his ideas greatly.
We began surfing at an early age and both progressed at it, by the time we were in our twenties we were both true watermen. Some of my fondest memories were surfing with my brother, great adventures these were, life on the line, intense, totally awesome dude.
We bought our first surfboard with our sister for $10 dollars, that was a fortune in 1971, the problem was it had a drawing on the deck in which a beautiful mermaids hair turned into a wave, she was topless…mom would never allow it…but the deal was to good so we waxed that board and waxed that board until you couldn’t see the picture. We brought it home Mom examined the purchase and said what is that a picture under the wax? Uh-o-ma-guck-o, Ollie her favorite the baby of the family said “oh it’s just a picture of a wave”…Ollie was very skilled with a half-truth when needed.
We had many great days surfing together and I can’t resist reflecting on two, one was in 1973, for us it was a breakthrough day, we were both still grommets (a surf term for a little kid surfer), we went surfing late in the day with Mike, Steve, and Mark…he was older and full blown skilled surfer.
We arrived at Golden West Street in Huntington Beach a notorious big and powerful wave spot to freight train walls peeling across. We should have known something wasn’t right when no one was out surfing.
Scared as we were we suited up and headed out, through some twist of fate we all made it out unscathed. That turned out to be a huge problem we inevitable ended up scratching and paddling for our lives as bigger and bigger waves came in..Uh-o-Ma-guck-o…
One by one we were lost to the monstrous waves, all of our leashes were broken and alone each individual had save their own life in the mighty sea and swim in. Personally I probably said two rosaries on my 45 minute swim.
I think we both learned that day something that helped us through our lives…being prepared is of the upmost importance and make good choices.
Another standout moment was in 1976, it began with a knock on my window at 4:30am…this was actually a common thing if someone wanted to go surfing, I looked out and Steve was signally me let’s go, I could see him mouthing his famous line come on your burning daylight, ironic since it was pitch black out and the dead of winter.
I woke up Ollie and in typical fashion we snuck out boards wetsuits in just minutes we were screaming down the road in Steve’s Mark VI Mustang headed for the beach.
We got o Huntington Beach and couldn’t see a thing due to the pre-dawn hour and a fog that was so thick and dank it absorbed into your bones when you got out of the car.
Steve had a great idea we will drive out onto Huntington pier and we should be able to see the waves from there, back then there were no barricades, people just knew you were not supposed to do that.
Freezing straining from the pier to see the waves we noticed some lights approaching ...Uh-o-Ma-guck-o, when the rotating blue and reds came on we new we had a problem. The officer got out of his car and approached us “what the hell are you doing on my pier…” the words hung in the fog we were shivering like wet cats from the cold and the fear that we were going to jail. Steve blurted out “we wanted to check the surf” Ollie chimed in “we couldn’t see from the beach”…we didn’t know what would come next, then the officer said “get in your car back off the pier and I better never see you again”…we were out of there.
We ended up driving all the way down to Salt Creek a lonely beach in southern orange county in the middle of nowhere. It was clear cold and the surf was on, head high barrel like tubes peeling off crystal green in color, we couldn’t suit up fast enough.
We had to make the trek down the bluff on a service road a fair distance, we paddled out and began what would turn out to be a magical day. As we were surfing tube after tube, we notice a Police car driving down the service road and it parked on the jetty at the bottom of the road…Uh-o-ma-guck-o…were they here to arrest us for driving on the pier, had the officer in Huntington Beach put an APB out on us?
They got out of their car and they were holding something, they then sat on the hood set down a box of doughnuts and began to eat them and drank coffee while they watched us totally shredding the waves, they even cheered when we got a spectacular ride…only in a beach town.
They eventually left and we became exhausted and headed in smiles from ear to ear. When we got out the unusually cold winter morning caught up to us, with an air temperature in the low forties and having been in the water for hours mixed with a steady breeze we soon began to lose feeling in our hands and feet.
We had to make the trek back up the service road we all acknowledged that are feet felt like walking on door knobs.
A little stream of water was coming down the gutter along the service road and we walked in it in an effort to warm our feet.
When we reached the car the keys were where all surfers in the 70’s put them…on the tire, but no one’s hands worked and we couldn’t grab them…Uh-o-Ma-guck-o, we were in the middle of nowhere.
It was time for the brothers Latronica to perform like a team and save the day, Ollie cupped his hands I pushed the keys into them, we then maneuvered the keys in between the palms, he lined it up with the door lock I pushed his hands until the key went in the lock and then wrapped my hands around his we turned and the door unlocked.
We had to accomplish the same feet inside the vehicle to start the car, the good thing about Steve’s Mustang is the heater worked real good real fast and we were soon on our way in a vehicle warm enough to roast a chicken in.
We headed straight to Huntington Beach and bought booties and gloves, we learned quickly.
Driving home we were smiling and laughing, talking a million miles an hour, it just doesn’t get better than those days.
Today every square inch of Salt Creek and the surrounding area is covered with multi-million dollar house’s and condo’s.
That adventure was a moment in time shared with my brother, no one will have it again.
Ollie and I had so many adventures together we did many things just to do them, many of those things are now called Adventure or Extreme Sports, it was just stuff we did.
Ollie was also a very accomplished motorcycle rider and competed in Motocross as well as Speedway, he was no fear before the sticker came out.
We free climbed water falls in the Angeles forest, hiked up into the mountains, ran trails, carried our beach cruisers up into the foothills and road them down the trails, and dozens of other things that are now called sports. We were the prototypes for a whole generation of people today, we go nameless but we did not do it for them we did it together, because that’s what we did.
All I can tell you is Ollie and I had so much good stuff we did together, I can’t even bother trying to remember anything bad, there isn’t time for it.