Marian O'Rorke's Passing a Great Loss

WALL STADIUM AND EAST WINDSOR SPEEDWAY FAMILY MOURNS THE PASSING OF MARIAN O'RORKE by Jeff Gravatt WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. ~ The Wall Stadium racing family, made up of management, officials, staff members and competitors, were saddened on Sunday...


by Jeff Gravatt

WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. ~ The Wall Stadium racing family, made up of management, officials, staff members and competitors, were saddened on Sunday (Jan. 9, 2000) at the word of the passing of Marian O'Rorke. The East Windsor Speedway racing family was also saddened as Mrs. O'Rorke spent several years in service to that half-mile clay oval. Marian O'Rorke was 66 years old when she succumbed early Sunday morning after a courageous and inspiring battle with cancer. Her family was at her bed side at the time of her passing.

One thing is for sure -- neither speedway will ever be the same.

Marian was born in Freehold, N.J. and resided in West Long Branch her entire life. She was a strong auto racing supporter and enthusiast nearly as long.

As a young lady, Marian visited several short tracks including the Long Branch Speedway. In fact, she met the man who would become her husband of over 45 years, Tom O'Rorke, in the grandstands at that speedway. Obviously, Marian's involvement with auto racing grew from there as she eventually became Wall Stadium's office manager, while Tom worked in Wall Stadium's pit area and has served as the chief pit steward for many years. Marian's son Dennis is also very active as a Modified stock car driver and her daughter, Sue Disbrow, works in the tower on the scoring staff. Chief Wall Stadium scorer Frank Antonides is Marian's cousin and her sister, Eleanor Hagaman, also works in the tower. Marian's granddaughters, Mandy and Shawna, who she adored, were often seen in the speedway office of the family oriented track.

Marian O'Rorke's emotional involvement with auto racing was honored in several different ways, including the 1995 "Woman of the Year" award at the annual Race of Champions.

"Saturday night's just won't be as much fun around here without Marian," Wall Stadium track manager Tucker Nicol said. "Marian has guided this place for years and her always present thought was about the good of Wall Stadium. I know that my mother (Mrs. Jennie Nicol) has always said that Marian was the most important person at the speedway. My mother and Marian grew to be like mother and daughter."

"She was just a wonderful lady," Jack Simmons, the East Windsor Speedway promoter, said. "We were very close both at the speedway and in our personal life. Tommy and Marian are both very special to Liz and I. I just don't know what to say except that there will never be another person like Marian O'Rorke."

Thanks to my position at Wall Stadium as public relations and marketing director, I had the pleasure to work closely with Marian for many years. Not only did we work together at the speedway on Saturday nights, but we also spent countless Tuesday evenings together in the speedway office as she continued to keep the entire speedway operating while I released press information to the media and dealt with other odds and ends. We also spent many hours on the telephone together over the years dealing with Wall Stadium business. All of those moments are cherished.

Over the years, I was fortunate to spend many enjoyable hours with this woman who cared so much about Wall Stadium, the East Windsor Speedway and auto racing in general. I remember Marian crying one Tuesday night in the Wall Stadium office when track owner Jennie Nicol was going through some tough health issues a few years ago. She was so afraid that Wall Stadium was going to lose its leader. Little did Marian realize how much of a leader she was to the third mile paved oval and its operation.

I remember much the same reaction from Marian O'Rorke the night that the speedway lost starter Dave Innes in a tragic accident. Although emotion was overcoming her, Marian O'Rorke did her best to keep her professional composure that night because she would accept nothing less.

On the brighter side I will always remember Marian's dry sense of humor -- just the kind of humor I love so much. But even when she was wise-cracking about a situation, her sincere caring about the people and places involved in her favorite sport would always shine through.

I'll also always remember that Marian brought peanut butter cups to the office every Tuesday night because she knew that I liked them.

I remember how Marian and I reacted one Wednesday evening in November as we prepared for the Turkey Derby. After hours of working to be ready, I opened the office door to leave only to step into a foot of snow on the porch. That snow postponed that Turkey Derby for a week. We often laughed about the reaction we both had to the unexpected snow over the years.

If there was one word that would describe Marian O'Rorke's work ethic it would be preparation. In fact, I have often been accused of over preparing for different events that I work on. I learned that from Marian O'Rorke and I cherish that. "Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail."

Visiting hours have been set up at the Woolley Funeral Home, 10 Morrell Street, Long Branch, N.J., from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Services will be held on Wednesday.

Wall Stadium will continue on without Marian O'Rorke because that is what she prepared all of us who work at the speedway for. The East Windsor Speedway will also continue with the staff of the track using much of the knowledge and inspiration given to us by Marian O'Rorke.

Marian's impression will be left on Wall Stadium and the East Windsor Speedway forever. Things that she taught me will be used for the entirety of my life and my career in auto racing.

Rest in peace, dear friend of a lifetime. You have trained us well to continue on. "Good Deal, Macneil!"

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