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Gene Romero “Celebration of Life”

Words: Howie Zechner

Let me start by saying I’m against it. Leaving this life behind… No way, I’m not going. But on the outside chance that I am wrong and the grim reaper dude does come, I want a celebration like the one “Burritto” had.

A Mexican American, Gene Romero loved the nickname and encouraged its use.

Now don’t get me wrong: The loss of a friend or loved one is never an easy thing. But when hundreds come to say goodbye, part of that grief turns into joy and celebration.

Classic Gene Romero on canvas.

The memorial service for Gene Romero was held June 22, 2019, at Southern California Triumph Motorcycles in Brea, CA.  A large dealership that sells Triumph, Ducati, Suzuki, Victory and Royal Enfield in five separate structures, it was a perfect location to hold the multitude of fans, friends and family who attended.

A shrine to Gene Romero’s career and accomplishments, each building was revamped for this honor. From simple things like pictures, posters and video of Gene’s career to a full out display of personal items and mementos, it was an educational voyage into the life of a fascinating man.

Items covering Gene Romero’s entire racing career were on display.

Between the buildings, a huge courtyard was set up with rows of tables and chairs that were covered in red and white carnation flowers. I don’t mean a couple or a few dozen. I’m talking hundreds, and they were everywhere. The flowers represent Gene Romero’s famous quote in the movie On Any Sunday, when he blurted out, “I don’t want to hurt anybody - but I’ve got to get third no matter what… I’m going to get third or come see me in the hospital - I dig carnations."

Elvis has left the building but he will never be forgotten, Gene Romero friend Howie Zechner relayed.

Courtyard center, Jay Agajanian and Bob Basile were selling “Burritto” meal tickets. Ten Dollars got you a large burrito, chips, cookies and a diet coke. Then it was just a short walk to the far end of the lot to a cooking station, where you picked up your home cooked meal.

Jay Agajanian and Bob Basile.

The Ascot merchandise truck also shared a corner of this courtyard. Manned by former Speedway Motorcycle racer Doug Nicol, the truck handed out the goods as many purchased Gene Romero shirts, decals, and more. The proceeds for these - the food, posters, prints and every item sold - were presented to Gene’s wife, Cheri, at day's end. To give you an insight, many bought the meal or shirt and never took them; they just wanted to contribute to this worthy cause.

Over 600 shirts were sold and all proceeds were donated to Cheri Romero.

At noon, an autograph session took place under several pop-ups that were set up against the building across from the courtyard tables.

 "King" Kenny Roberts was one of nineteen superstars signing autographs.

American racing legends David Aldana, Gary Chaplin, Don Emde, Dave Hansen, John Hateley, Tom Horton, Ricky Johnson, Ronnie Jones, Dennis Kanegae, Keith Mashburn, Rob Morrison, Sonny Nutter, Jim Odom, Chuck Palmgren, Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert, Sammy Tanner, Ralph White and Eddie Wirth spent hours at the autograph table.

Each “Farewell Burritto” autograph card had the racers' pictures and places for them to sign.

Autographed pictures and helmets will be cherished items for these Romero fans.

Large posters with various action shots of Gene Romero hung everywhere. Plentiful, they were sold for $50 each. Some took them into the autograph line and had them signed. Wow - the ultimate collector's picture signed by some of the best motorcycle racers in the world.

Custom made Gene Romero posters were a big hit with collectors and fans.

I want to give a special shout out to Chris Agajanian and all those who helped, donated and attended this special Celebration of Life.

Chris Agajanian - Dave Aldana - Bubba Shobert.

Gene Ronald Romero, you will be missed but not forgotten. Your place in history is assured. Race in Peace, my friend. Until we meet again.