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Passenger: Joseph DeLuca

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Joe DeLuca doted on his bright yellow 4/4 Morgan like a proud parent. At various times he'd collected Roman coins and meteorites, and owned and raced both a Sunbeam Alpine and an MG Midget, but nothing compared to his 1957 version of the legendary car handmade in England.

Joseph DeLuca
dot.gifComputer program designer, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, 52, Succasunna, N.J.
Parents, Joseph Sr. and Felicia; sister, Carol Hughes
He was beginning a vacation to the California wine country with Linda Gronlund

Neither food nor drink ever crossed the car's restored black leather interior, but DeLuca's two stepgrandsons often did, albeit just one at a time, since it was a two-seater.

At 6 feet 3 inches and 235 pounds, he himself had to squeeze into the roadster, which he called "The Yellow Peril II," and when he wore his peaked British driving cap his head grazed the roof.

He compared Morgans to cats -- he owned two felines, Fred the Twit and Dickens -- because "they have their own personality."

For DeLuca, cars were a preoccupation. He raced them, ran clubs for them, drew them, wrote about them and talked about them. A board member of the northern New Jersey chapter of the Sports Car Club of America, he wrote and edited the group's newsletter. For years, that newsletter and other publications included his creation "The Adventures of Raymond the Cat," a single-panel cartoon about the travails of a road-rallying, windbreaker-wearing cat.

He could be dogged, too. Once, in the midst of a road rally, DeLuca's car lost its muffler. He drove 80 miles roundtrip to put a new muffler on and rejoin the race.

Born and raised with a younger sister in New Jersey, DeLuca earned a teacher's license, but a short stint as a junior high school teacher convinced him his future lay with computers. He'd begun working with computers in the early 1970s and taught himself well enough to earn jobs with several businesses before joining Pfizer Consumer Healthcare in Morris Plains, N.J. in 1977. He had worked most recently as a systems business consultant developing technology applications for commercial clients.

DeLuca was flying to San Francisco with his new girlfriend, Linda Gronlund, to tour vineyards, although his taste in wine, according to one friend, was "one step above Sutter Home."

But the couple, who first met at road rallies 20 years ago, had another side trip planned. They also were going to visit one of the country's three Morgan dealers.

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