This wasn't the kind of news anyone in the Warren Hills or New Jersey wrestling community wanted to receive on the eve of a start to another high school season.
Alonzo Widenor, regarded as one of the biggest Blue Streaks backers, died on Sunday morning after a long and courageous battle with brain cancer. He was 65. I received the news via text message and was both shocked and saddened that he was gone. I, like many in the area, knew the man known as 'Lonz' well from wrestling circles and he was a family friend. We also lived in the same town.
For those who don't recognize the name, Alonzo was the tall man always sitting in the front row at dual meets and at the Region 1 Tournament at Wallkill Valley, wearing the camouflage overalls and sporting the long grey beard, and usually sitting with his partner in crime, Danny "Heavy Duty" Brandt. Widenor's son, Alonzo, also wrestled for the Streaks. My condolences to him and the rest of the Widenor family.
Many friends and wrestling fans have taken to the New Jersey Wrestling Forum on Facebook to offer their fond memories and to grieve along with the rest of us. Here are some of the posts:
"When the kids hit the mats in three weeks, Region 1's biggest fan will be missing, camo bibs and all. R.I.P. Lonzo. First man at the door at Wallkill for who knows how many years." -- Steve Alpaugh, avid Warren Hills fan and graduate.
"RIP Alonzo. Prayers go out to the Warren Hills wrestling family. You couldn't have had a more dedicated fan." -- Mike Bateman, former highly-regarded Pennsylvania wrestling official and Phillipsburg wrestler.
"His passion for the sport and his unparalleled character made him a very unique fan of the sport and a Warren Hills legend." -- Rick Foley, whose son, Rick, wrestled for the Streaks.
Former athletic director Nick Holgash recalled Widenor as "one of his favorites at Warren Hills."
As Warren Hills embarks on the program's 76th season, it would be a fitting tribute to dedicate the season to one of the school's biggest fans. You can bet that public address announcer Bill Lunger will pay tribute to Alonzo before the first whistle on Saturday, Dec. 21, when the Streaks take on Palisades (Pa.), Clearview and Voorhees in a season-opening quad.
God speed Alonzo. You will be sorely missed and we know you'll be watching from a front-row seat up above.
NOTE: Services are under the care of DeVoe Funeral Service in Washington. Calling hours are Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. Funeral service is on Thursday, Dec. 5 at 11 a.m.