Life Is A Precious Gift We All Should Cherish Every Day
Life is one of the most precious possessions with which humans have been blessed. However, when we are young, foolish and seemingly invincible, sometimes we don’t respect the gift and importance of life.
When this writer looks back on his sometimes crazy, romantic and carefree youth, I’m surprised to still be alive at age 76, remembering the joys, triumphs and the pitfalls of my 20s and 30s.
In the early 1970s, I was involved in two serious motorcycle accidents. The first was when I dumped my exotic black and sexy 850 c.c. Moto Guzzi motorcycle on a gravel spill at the Eisenhower-Kennedy spaghetti bowl near Rush University Hospital. I was 29 years old. It was a hot summer night in July. I had had a few cocktails and maybe a puff or two of grass. I wasn’t wearing a helmet and was totally unprotected.
At that time, I was married to my first wife with two beautiful young children. I lost a spleen and suffered a lacerated kidney that night, and received more than 60 stitches.
During surgery, doctors injected four pints of blood in my battered body, and lots morphine. I was in intensive care at Rush for eight days.
The 1st District Police softball team and its manager, Sargent Clancy, kindly visited my hospital room to give me their blessing. I wondered later if they possibly had come to perform last rites. If the crash wasn’t a few blocks from Rush Hospital, I wouldn’t be writing this column.
A couple of years later in the Irving Park Villa neighborhood an unleashed dog ran out between two parked cars. I hit the animal and the brakes, then flew over the handlebars. Even though I was wearing a helmet and leathers, I landed hard and shattered my collar bone in three places, dislocating my left shoulder. The steel collar bolts are still in my body.
Then, my wife, Heidi, wisely said: “It’s the bike or me.” Good advice.
My best friend, Don (Garbo) Garbarino, and I had ridden our twin Moto Guzzis rough shod to the Badlands of South Dakota and back. We had great times while road racing at more than 100 miles per hour through the flats of Iowa. However, after the second crash, I sold the bike.
That break with motorcycling probably upset my life-long friend and biker buddy Torello Fortunato Tacchi, who was featured in this column about a year ago when he passed away, at age 80. But he never said a word.
In the early 1970s, Tacchi originally lured this writer into the wild world of motorcycle riding when he said: “Why not put something exciting between your legs?”
Road warrior Tacchi, a master mechanic, professional motorcycle racer, movie stuntman, airplane builder and licensed pilot, lived an adventuresome life. He passed away on July 15, 2020 in Jacksonville, Fla. after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Torello and his family immigrated to Chicago from Tunis, Tunisia in 1949. His life’s work encompassed running the family motorcycle business, building custom road-racer motorcycles, and competing and setting speed records against professional factory racing teams at tracks in the Chicago area, Indianapolis, Ind. and Daytona Beach, Fla.
Page, a biker’s widow
In April of 2021, Page Pitts Tacchi, Torello’s widow, organized a memorial in Chicago that was attended by dozens of his friends and family members. It was a joyful event with family videos, photos and plenty of loving and happy Torello stories shared by attendees.
Blonde, blue-eyed Page, still a Southern beauty at 78, was full of life. She was always smiling and laughing like a teenage girl. Forever joyful, she always saw the best in people and situations, and never met a stranger she didn’t like.
Little did this writer know Page would follow Torello to biker heaven only four months later, after a brief illness and a courageous fight. That sometimes happens to couples who were together forever.
Page met Torello while living in Chicago and they fell madly in love and were married in 1968. They remained married for 52 years, until his death.
During those early years of marriage, Page was passionate about adoption. However, Torello, a traditional Old-World husband, initially did not want to adopt children.
This probably was the first and only serious marital disagreement they ever had in five decades. So, Page, a strong, determined woman, left Torello and returned to her family in Florida.
One evening a few weeks later, while sharing a few beers with his close college friends—this writer, and fellow biker Garbarino, Torello discussed his marital problem man-to-man.
We were shocked. How could he stubbornly refuse to grant the only wish his beautiful wife ever wanted—children? We strongly advised him that he was a “total iron head,” and probably was making the biggest mistake of his life. Torello took a deep breath, followed our advice, and boarded the next plane to Florida.
Within a few months, the Tacchi family adopted daughter Elizabeth, and later, son Torello Orazio.
Happiness is a choice
“Page believed that happiness is a choice, that you cannot always control what life brings, but you can always control how you react,” said Elizabeth Bailey, her daughter.
Since my own father, Chester Louis DeBat, was placed in a New Orleans orphanage in 1910 and later adopted, Page’s life story touched my heart.
The family was so passionate about adoption, Page’s grandchildren were also adopted.
Page authored two children’s books on the subject, featuring her grandson, James. “The Adventures of James and Maisy: A Story of Adoption,” and “The Adventures of James and Maisy: James and Maisy Go to School,” were fulfillments of a lifelong dream.
As a full-time mother to her own children and all of her children’s friends, her home was always open for sleepovers and parties. “She loved her family unconditionally, and her children and grandchildren were the lights of her life,” Elizabeth said.
Page also loved to travel. Her favorite trip was a vacation to Greece, but she always looked forward to Torello’s annual trip to Chicago so her husband could have a few beers with Wright College News buddies at Resi’s Bierstube Restaurant on Irving Park Road.
“Anyone who knew Page realized how much she loved the sun, the beach, and any outdoor activity,” Elizabeth said. “She embraced adventure. Recently, she wrestled an alligator in Colorado.”
Page also was a devout Christian and a fierce patriot. “She loved her country, and passed on her religious values, love of America, and devotion to family to her children and grandchildren,” Elizabeth said.
Page is survived by her two children, Elizabeth Bailey (James) and Torello Orazio Tacchi; two grandchildren, James and Ari Bailey; her brother, David Pitts (Stephanie Gigante); two sisters-in-law, Mirella Minnech and Rita Payne, numerous nieces and nephews, several cousins, too many friends to begin to count, and her beloved Bull Terriers, Max and Caruso.
A celebration of life was held on Saturday, September 18, 2021 at the Ribault Garden Club in Jacksonville Beach, FL.
To honor Page’s passion and commitment to children and adoption, in lieu of flowers please consider making a donation in her name to the Children’s Home Society of Florida or the charity of your choice. Link to the donation page: chsfl.org/Donate/.