We got the news tonight that our friend, Dan Viola, has died of throat cancer. This is a sad time for us, and anyone who either grew up in Carmel, NY, or wh has been here, as we have, for a long time. Dan was a local icon, along with Tony Porto, and others who were local innkeepers and restauranteurs, they were local characters, well known and well loved by many. Tony is still with us, and Dan has now left. Dan was a kind soul who had a kind word for most of the people that he came in contact with. He was a soft touch, and I saw him many times feed some poor soul who was out of luck and out of money. He could be tough on you, if it was needed, but most of the time he was and easy going local legend. I met Dan one night when, as many have done, I had a few words at home and needed to get away. I was younger and not very bright in those days. Dan welcomed me into his place and bought me my first two drinks. He was kind and made me feel welcome. I never forgot that.
As the years went on, we spent many holiday parties at his 52 Yard Line, and many nights just sitting and talking with Dan. Some nights, he would just close the place, and we would sit and talk and joke for hours.
When Dan decided to sell the place and retire, it was like a member of our family was leaving. He couldn't face saying goodbye to all of his friends, so he left a day before he had said, and moved to California. From time to time, we would hear about him. He health got progressively worse as the years passed, but we were told that he always asked about us.
When we heard, just a few short weeks ago, that Dan had stage 4 throat cancer, we were devastated, but still we hoped that he would beat it. Tonight, we walked into his former establishment for dinner, as we do once a month, and we were told that Dan had died. Our friend, and Dan's successor, Annie, confirmed it. As we shed tears together, Annie and I reminisced about our old friend. Dan touched a lot of people over the years. The names of his places : The White Horse, The Happy Valley, Dan's Place, and finally, The 52 Yard Line, were local landmarks and the places to be on many a Friday and Saturday night.
Dan, old friend, we mourn your passing, but we count ourselves lucky to have known you, and to have been able to call you 'Friend'. Rest In Peace, and if there is an afterlife, save me a spot at your bar, where we can laugh and talk, just like we had always done. Goodbye, old friend. You are truly missed.