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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Tom Youtes

Written originally on Sunday, January 16th, 2011 at 7:31 a.m.

As I sit here, reflecting on the year which passed, 2010... I cannot help but think about a very old friend who passed away in 2010 without my knowledge. As life moves so fast— we barely blink before we inevitably stop to realize that perhaps we simply "lost touch" with a number of people... for a number of reasons some of which are simply the result of the evolution we all face from decade to decade. I was in my early 20s when my mother's trucking company was in full swing. I was still going to college when I took a job at The Beaver Valley Power Station Unit II Phase. It was a union job and I was inducted into The Teamsters Union with very little fan fare. To me, it was a card that stated I was qualified to drive a pick-up truck filled with those huge water coolers you see on the sidelines at football games filled with Gatorade.

You see, the plant was still being built and they hadn't installed a water system so it was our job to see that everyone had drinking water. I drove and the two guys who rode next to me carried the water from the truck to each location. It wasn't exactly quantum physics and we usually finished up our entire route before our lunch break. John Fattore and Tom Youtes became my partners in a quest to avoid boredom at all costs and find amusement at every turn. We read the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Bloom County was our favorite strip... and we ALL (every single person employed there), did the Crossword Puzzle of the day. Boring stuff right? Wrong.

You see, Tom, John and I were Masters at the art of finding a plethora of ways to keep ourselves partially sane and randomly amused. I brought in sketch pads and writing paper to "capture" the fascinating in what others might not have noticed. I also brought a small television set that plugged into the truck lighter outlet and every afternoon the three of us would watch Days of Our Lives and come up with our own scenarios which would have made Salem far more entertaining than it ever was. It was the early 80's and we were all finding our way into adulthood as we created as much anarchy and mischief as humanly possible. We found so many ways to escape the job site and party at the small taverns in the nearby town of Midland, PA. We were the misfits, the outlaws... the water crew that no one was ever able to locate or capture. We'd spike the water with lemonade and vodka during the holidays...

We played poker with the electricians and convinced the carpenters to build us whatever we needed in return for playing their numbers and taking their bets to the "bookies" who we would give cases of the whiskey (meant for the engineers and top plant executives) that we would find no matter where they hid it. We ran football pools and card games. We even had our own kitchen hidden away where we'd cook Italian pasta, sausage and drink home made wine. We never really saw it as work even though we were being paid rather well to show up.

We shared holidays together, got each other through tough times... When Tom's wife had a miscarriage and lost his daughter Sonya, he was devastated. John and I took up a collection to help with the funeral expenses. It was a time in our lives like no other. My college friends welcomed "The Water Crew" and we spent time going to both college and pro football games together. The Beaver Valley Power Station Unit II Phase was our playground and we rode the wave until I finished up college and moved on. But Tom and John and I still hung out together, going to college parties, football games, pro wrestling shows and partying with guys like hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper who we found at the bars near the old Pittsburgh Airport after the shows.

But as time went on, we saw less and less of each other. I ran into Tom in early 1992 and we went to his favorite bar, shared drinks and laughed about all of the shenanigans we were actually able to get away with on the job site. It was so good to see him. He was married again and he looked so happy. He also mentioned his dog, a black lab who went everywhere with Tom, had passed away and that he missed him terribly. We talked until the bar closed and as we left I hugged him very tightly and we both promised to get together again at some point. I had no idea that I would never see Tom again.

When I heard (via another dear friend) that Tom had died, I thought about all of the things I didn't say. But then I realized that even though I hadn't said everything I wanted to say to Tom... it was okay. People lose touch... and more than often it isn't because we don't care, it just happens. One of Tom's favorite films was "The Big Chill"; it's still one of mine. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the storyline is: "A group of seven former college friends gather for a weekend reunion at a posh South Carolina winter house after the funeral of one of their friends."  The storyline of The Big Chill is strong, and one that is easy to relate to as an adult. Who doesn't wonder if their lives have gone in different directions than we originally intended? Who doesn't see the irony in choices we have made throughout our lives? I know that I do.

I miss Tom. I will always miss Tom. But I also feel so very fortunate to have known him at a time in my life when we all felt immortal... Everything has an end, we all know that. Death is a natural end. It is something that we all know is going to happen, there is really no way around it. It is a part of the entire cycle.

Thomas R. "Youdiee" Youtes, Jr., 50, of Monaca, passed away Monday, September 6th, 2010, due to a recurring bout with cancer. Born on June 27th, 1960, in Aliquippa, he was a son of Thomas R. Sr. and Doris J. Youtes. Tom was a construction worker and a member of the Laborers Union Number 833. He was also a member of the American Legion Post Number 580. Tom was preceded in death by a seven-month-old daughter, Sonya Vonne Youtes. Surviving are his wife, Laurene Muzic Youtes; his parents, Tom and Doris; a son, Bryan Youtes in Florida; a daughter, Jestynne Youtes of Ellwood City; a stepdaughter, Johnna (Todd) Haller of New Brighton; a granddaughter, Taelor of Ellwood City, and two sisters; Suzanne (Bobby) Hunt of Monaca and Kristin (Jack) Hurley of Monaca.

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