That's what we called him, although we never really knew his real name.
Mr. Tonelli was the father of the owner of the pizzaria next door to our bike shop. We figured he was in his late 60's, maybe a bit older. Tonelli's was the name of the pizza place, although to the best of our knowledge no one there went by that name. He would help in the kitchen and in slower moments would come in and visit the shop.
His command of english was rudimentary, but we managed to learn from him -and his son- that he had been a racer for Bianchi's team before the war. i don't know what races he competed it- i wish now i had asked him. He told us a couple of amusing tales about Filiero Masi's womanizing and Cino Cinelli's tight-fistedness, among others.
We knew he followed the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France and was a fan of Felice Gimondi. In the summer of '73, when we asked him who'd won the Tour, he just shook his head and said, "the Spaniard."
A post tonight on Mid-Life Cycling reminded me of our Mr. Tonelli.
One afternoon, he dropped in and watched our lead mechanic toss a taco'ed wheel into the trash. He pulled it out, eyeballed it, stuck the rim under the lip of the display case and did a dance step on it, put it in the jig and tweaked some spokes, pulled it back out and repeated the process twice more, and proudly presented a reasonably rideable wheel to an admiring audience.
It was a skill he'd undoubtedly learnt back in the days when racers had to do their own roadside repairs or take the long walk home.
We didn't have the heart to tell him that we'd already sold the customer a brand new wheel, but we did keep that wheel hanging up in the back shop for the rest of the summer.