John Baldoni of Old Saybrook died on Nov. 23 from the long-term effects of COVID-19, which he had contracted in February. He was born in Middletown in 1944, the middle child of John and Angie Baldoni.
Johnny was raised on the shoreline around cars. His father owned the Ford Garage and the attraction of a lot full of cars was often too much for a restless 15-year-old boy: A car would be missing from the lot only to turn up sometime later with a few more miles on it and occasionally a scratch or two.
He graduated from Boston University in 1967 with a major in journalism; he used his education in his work with a local newspaper on the Cape where he also acted as the paper’s photographer. After returning to the shoreline, he started Madison Leasing, which specialized in high-end cars.
He was a fan of Formula One and each year would embark on a long weekend journey to Canada with his friends Norm Rutty and John Pandiani to watch those races—although it’s not clear how much racing they actually watched over three days. He also attended other races during the year; at one he had the opportunity to drive a car around a track and, as he pointed out, not at 180 miles per hour.
Johnny’s interests were wide and varied and he could recall facts and data about any topic, and that, along with a great sense of humor, made him fun to be with. He easily made friends—and it was an ever-widening circle—wherever he went and stayed in touch with everyone. He was a lifelong caring friend who could always be counted on. If you knew Johnny, you know that we often had to peel him off the ceiling after he had watched the nightly evening news. On his many trips to hospitals, the doctors and nurses would tell us he was their favorite patient; he had a cheerful, easygoing disposition and expressed his gratitude for their care. As a lung transplant recipient, with its frequent complications, and now with COVID added to the mix, he had many close calls over the intervening years—he was referred to as Lazarus; medical students were brought in to see this surviving patient and his three-volume medical history. He coordinated monthly get-togethers with other lung recipients in the area; over lunch they would share common issues, encourage, commiserate, and help each other navigate the journey they had embarked upon.
Johnny loved and was devoted to his two sons, Eric and Marco. Eric lives in Tucson with his wife Alex; Johnny’s visits often included a fix-it project that he liked to undertake, however, it would often end up less fixed than when he arrived.
One cross-country trip with Marco and his wife Marcia became an epic adventure every mile along the way.
The lung transplant that Johnny received gave us 16 more precious years with him. On the anniversary of his surgery, we always think of the grief and heartache of the family who, even at that difficult time, made the decision to donate their family member, knowing that this great gift would save lives. We hope that you will consider making a donation by checking the donor box when renewing your license, putting your wishes in your living will, and discussing your plans with your family.
Johnny is survived by his grieving sons, Eric and his wife Alex and Marco and his wife Marcia. He leaves his two heartbroken sisters, Joan Kariko and her husband Attila of Worcester, Massachusetts, and Nancy Baldoni of Old Saybrook; and cousins Jim and Ann Baldoni. We treasure the years we had with our beloved Johnny. To share a memory or leave a condolence, please visit baldoni.net.