My Great-Uncle Walter E. Monaco
About a month ago, my grandfather’s brother Walter E. Monaco passed away at the age of 91. I hadn’t seen him in years; he had been living in San Antonio, TX since 2009 and before that had spent almost his entire adult life in Europe. The longest period of time I spent with him was in the summer of 1988 when he stayed at my house for six weeks and I was a sullen teenager interested in nothing but locking myself in my room and practicing. (Come to think of it, I still just want to lock myself in my room and practice; guess some things never change.)
What I remember about Uncle Walt was his big smile, his incredible stories and his love of life. He talked about being on the bobsled team for the United States in the 1950s; he told me that saxophonist Stan Getz used to shoot heroin in his bathroom every time he was in Germany. After Uncle Walt left our house that summer, my mother found a half-empty bottle of vodka stashed away in the guest room. I remember smiling then, because my mother was horrified, and I – being a sullen teenager – thought it was hysterical and matched Uncle Walt’s mischievous personality perfectly.
Sadly I was unable to attend his funeral, but my sister did, and she marveled at the stories told about his life, and the family that found him the retirement community in San Antonio and were taking care of him until the end. She also showed me an email from Sir Stirling Moss, a famous Formula One racecar driver in the 1950s. Sir Moss was a friend of Uncle Walt’s, and had written to the family to express his condolences.
The news that my Uncle Walt was friends with someone involved in Formula One Racing was something I hadn’t heard of before. Being that Formula One is the name of my band, I went online and did a little research on my Uncle Walt. What I found was astonishing: not only did he spend time with Formula One racecar drivers, but he also tried the sport himself. I found out this information from a lovely tribute that the fascinating pilot and racecar enthusiast Carlos Ghys posted of Uncle Walt: http://www.carlosghys.be/html/biography_walt.html
(Carlos also wrote on his biography page that Uncle Walt was a cousin of Frank Sinatra’s. This is news to me, but now I’m a bit curious so I’ll do some research.)
Anyway, this was all very exciting stuff – seeing the photos, reading about the people he knew in the racing world, and also in show business (Errol Flynn was a buddy of his). I regret not having kept in touch; I think he would have been delighted to hear that I had an interest in Formula One racing and that I had named my band after it…