Coach Turina honored by the Thomaston Rotary. G-Pa celebrated.
On Thursday afternoon at Black Rock Tavern in Thomaston, the Thomaston Rotary honored a man who has had a positive and memorable impact on countless numbers of individuals who have been lucky enough to cross paths with him.
Tony Turina, a man who I am fortunate enough to call a friend and the brother I never had, was celebrated before members of the Rotary, who are a dedicated group who deeply care about the community they serve.
Coach, as many of us call him, may be from Torrington but has made Thomaston his second home since he opened his coffee shop that has become a town institution.
The Rotary Club saluted Turina at a luncheon that featured three guest speakers, two of them family members, the third a sports writer (me) who he has shown an unwavering support for throughout the years.
At the main table where six people who I consider part of my extended family, starting with Tony's wife, Joann who is the woman who has been the strength behind her husband for decades. The two of them still rib and tease each other like they were high school sweethearts, just starting out.
Caitlin Lee, Turina's youngest daughter, spoke first and had the place roaring with inside stories about this family man who tends to protect those that he loves, especially when it comes to neck injuries or a severe case of brain freeze.
Lee is married to Jason, a detective in Hartford with both of them being tremendous young folks with two boys of their own who call their grandfather G-Pa which may have started for one reason but seems to fit coach perfectly.
Kind of hip, like Turina. "Hi, I'm G-Pa, want to buy my CD?"
Joe Mazza, who helps Turina run Tony's Coffee Express, was up next and spoke eloquently about what it has meant to him to have a mentor like coach who he witnesses spread his love and compassion for his fellow man on a daily basis.
Mazza can be found behind the counter taking care of the day to day operations of the store which is THE place in Thomaston to be any time of the day.
His welcoming smile and personality are a perfect fit and compliment what his mentor started years and years ago.
Joe is married to Tony's oldest daughter Beth, who spent many a year helping her father and then husband behind the counter.
Her contagious laugh and smile always make it a good day when you get to spend time with her.
The Mazza's also have two boys, giving them a point guard short of the next team Turina might coach down the road.
I have said for years that the Turina family has welcomed me as if I were part of their family tree and I hope they feel the same about mine because they are truly part of our extended unit.
Being able to tell the story of how my friend Tony has helped shape so much of who I have become was an honor and privilege.
From that first meeting years ago when I was working for Frito Lay and looked up to see a guy I didn't expect to see in Thomaston at the old Coffee House Plus location, across the street from the current store, it has been a blessing knowing this man.
His constant encouragement and consistent guidance has helped shape so much of what I am today.
Coach is always coaching.
I have felt a part of his team since the first time I met him.
His ability to encourage, support, nudge and from time to time let you know what you need to hear has had a profound effect on me as I developed Litchfield County Sports in the many mediums it performs in today.
The Rotary got it right, as they usually do, when they chose to honor one Tony Turina.
You won't find a humbler recipient who defines giving back and paying it forward so, so well.
Plus, that nick-name, G-Pa. Can't beat it.
Congrats coach. Thanks for letting me be part of it.