James ``Pepsi'' Buonomo , 93, died Sunday night. Nick Micek called early Monday with the news.
Hands down, Pepsi, was central to the oddest story I have covered and written about in the outdoors.
He was a friend to and often the driver for the late ``Joey Doves'' Aiuppa.
Thanks to Don Beltrame of Suburban Sporting Goods catching that Pepsi's passing was exactly 12 years after Aiuppa's.
The funeral is at 10 a.m Friday at the Ed Prignano Funeral Home, 1815 W. North Ave., Melrose Park. Visitation is 3-9 p.m. tonight. Info is (708) 344-0635.
It's well worth a revisit to the whole story.
Three years ago in January, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame disgraced itself by belligerently refusing to truly reexamine the world record muskie claimed by Louie Spray. The World Record Muskie Alliance had filed a credible and well-researched protest, which was basically dismissed out of hand.
A week or so later, Hall of Fame fisherman Spence Petros called about his fishing classes and we got sidetracked on the muskie stuff.
And he reminded me of the tangential world-record muskie story he had a hand in. Many years later while Spence was crappie fishing in the northwest suburbs with Aiuppa when the reputed crime boss of Chicago said he had caught the muskie Spray claimed.
Spence, a former bail bondsman and son of a Chicago precinct captain, isn't one to listen to b.s. from anyone, even Aiuppa. He treated that claim with some skepticism, but went home and checked. The dates and area matched. And he gave the story credence.
Jump ahead again. A few years back, Pepsi bumped into Spence at an outdoor show. So Spence thought Pepsi was still alive and that if I put a note in my column, I might be able to find Pepsi.
Boy, did that sentence ever work.
Much help came from Micek, whom Pepsi had often watched over.
But I also had information passed along from a Chicago cop, and many others. Even a Chicago fireman pulled me aside at a bowling alley and asked if I had found Pepsi yet because he knew how to reach him.
Pepsi had remained active in Maywood Sportsmen's Club up until the end, and was well respected by many.
Well, I ended up interviewing Pepsi, who was then a wiry and lively 91, at a restaurant in the western suburbs. And the story became one of my favorite two-page outdoor spreads in the Sun-Times.
What most sticks is the stories Pepsi told of the hunting and fishing trips he and Aiuppa made. On the famous trip to northern Wisconsin, he was grouse hunting while Aiuppa was muskie fishing when Spray muskie was caught.
And I found Pepsi's side of the world-record muskie saga by far the most believable of all parties involved.