Rutland Honors Two Men Who Died In Tropical Storm Irene

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(Host) Rutland City Hall will be closed Friday to allow city workers to attend the funeral for water plant manager Michael Garofano and his 24-year-old son, Michael Gregory.   

Garafano and his son were checking intake valves during the height of Tropical Storm Irene when they were apparently swept away by rising water.    

VPR’s Nina Keck has this remembrance.

(Keck) Mike Garofano grew up in Rutland and started working for the city in 1981. His brother-in-law, Frank Urso, says Mike was quiet and shy. Not outwardly emotional and sometimes gruff.

(Urso) (laughs) "I think curmudgeon’s a pretty good word. And that’s the persona that most people saw."

(Keck) But Urso says Mike was dedicated to his wife and sons, and their family was incredibly close.   

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras says Garofano was also dedicated to his job managing the city’s water supply.  

(Louras) "The day before the flood, Mike did his job. He closed an inlet valve to make sure dirty water wasn’t going to come into the reservoir.   And he could have called it a day. But that’s not the way he was."

(Keck)  On Sunday, August 28th, when Mendon Brook was raging, Garofano and his son went back to check on things.

(Louras) "Probably his adult son insisted on going. Because Mike was so bull-headed, he was going to go anyway. And he just had to not just check, or double-check or triple-check, the status of his water system. And obviously a bank or something gave way and Mike and his son were swept away and killed."

(Keck) The elder Garafano’s body was found the next day. His son Michael’s body is still missing.  

(Louras) "It’s extremely easy to speak in platitudes. But words cannot convey the caliber of an individual that Michael was. And you can’t possibly overstate the tragedy associated with his death on a number of levels."

(Keck) When word got out, messages of support and sympathy began pouring in from all over the country.

Brother-in-law Frank Urso says the Water Sewer Division from the Town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, sent condolences. So did the New England Water Works Association.

(Urso) "He did die in the line of duty. He did die as a result of his conscientiousness, his sense of duty to the Rutland community."

(Keck) Urso says Mike defined himself by his family and his work.

(Urso)  "And he died with his boots on doing what he would always do.  Some of us would say he went up there foolishly. But that was Michael Garofano. And he wouldn’t be who he was he didn’t go if up there."

(Keck) Urso says young Michael was a lot like his father – quiet and shy. The two were very close.  

Urso says it’s no surprise that young Michael wanted to go with his father in the storm. The 24-year-old had just started his own landscaping business and was doing well.   

He was a late bloomer, says Urso, who was just beginning to bloom.   

The two Garofanos are survived by their wife and mother, Sally, and brother Tommy. A third son, Robbie Garofano, died in an accidental fall last year.    

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.


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