We drove down to New Jersey yesterday to honor you. Dave was dedicating the building you worked so hard to build, in your memory. Andy and Lauren, Tom, Mom and Dad, Sam and I, we were all there. Dave's family, the salespeople you worked with, everybody from the factory. Had to have been close to 50 people came to remember you and tell stories about you.
My word! Luka looks just like you! Grandpa Joe brought him. We haven't seen him for a few months and he has really grown! And he doesn't stop moving. He's all smiles and such a charmer. Just like you, he can light up a room within five minutes of entering it.
After we assembled in the factory, Dave asked people to come forward and talk. A salesman went up and told stories about road trips with you. They were the typical "John stories" -- brash, bold, funny, successful. We were all crying before he was even halfway through.
As Dave got up to speak, a bunch of the employees gathered near a rope that was attached to a sheet. They had on shirts they had made up. (Later Dave told us he had no idea they had done it) The black shirts had bright neon green "JV 32" on the front left shoulder. Covering the back, they had "In memory of John H. Vaillencourt" done on a background of silver diamond plate.
Dave gave a speech telling about the warehouse you built, under budget and on schedule. About how you never took "No" for an answer, even from him, your boss. How your biggest asset was your need to do everything bigger, better, faster. How it was also your biggest liability. You wouldn't accept being number three. You had to be number one. In everything.
Dave gave a nod to his employees and they cut the rope. When the sheet fell, a massive diamond plate sign with "JV 32" in large letters on top and "In memory of John H. Vaillencourt," underneath, hung over the entrance to the warehouse.
Then Dave announced that he also had a gift for Luka. Dave shared how you liked to build things, push them to their breaking point, so you could rebuild them, just so you could push them to breaking again. You were like that with people too, you know. We were just starting to rebuild our relationship again. I am so glad we got the chance to grow so much closer in the last two years or so. Oh, how I wish we could have had more time.
Dave said you would be happy to know that he didn't touch a single bolt or screw. The guys, your guys, did it all. In drove your jeep, completely rebuilt. It was painted black with neon green lights and JV 32 on the license. The last time I saw pictures of it, you had completely disassembled it. I know Tom thought it would never be in one piece again. Someone put Luka in the driver seat and Andy got in with him. There are pictures somewhere of that. Tom had driven his jeep down (I know you two had a thing about whose jeep was better; I think yours won this time) and they got the two jeeps side by side- together again. Poor Tom. He loved you so much and his heart is broken.
I saw a salesman come up to Dad, give him a hug and overheard him say with tears streaming, "I loved your son. You have to know, I loved your son." Everyone loved you John, and we all miss you.