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Car buff killed on way to auto show | StAugustine.com

Car buff killed on way to auto show

St. Augustine man remembered for his warm personality, outgoing manner

Posted: June 14, 2012 - 11:41pm


John and Lynda Guarnieri stand in front of their 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer at a car show in North Carolina. John was killed Wednesday evening in a single car accident near Exit 290 on I-75 North in Cartersville, Ga.


St. Augustine man remembered for his warm personality, outgoing manner

When John Guarnieri’s friends talked about him, they mentioned his outgoing personality, his love of cars, and his passion for making his cars “absolutely perfect.”

He would spend hours in his air-conditioned garage tinkering around, and he won several awards for his work on a 1955 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer.

Guarnieri, a St. Augustine resident, was a longtime member of the Ancient City Auto Club and was active in the Vilano Beach community, where he and his wife lived for some time.

He and his wife, Lynda, were traveling in a pickup truck with his Dodge in tow through Cartersville, Ga., on the way to a national car competition in Shelbyville, Tenn., when they crashed along Interstate 75 North near mile marker 289 around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. A witness said the pickup truck made a hard right turn and ran into the guardrail and then into a ditch, according to the Cartersville Police Department report.

Guarnieri, 65, was pronounced dead later that evening at Cartersville Medical Center, according to published reports. Lynda Guarnieri sustained severe injuries and was taken via air ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. She was in stable condition as of Wednesday evening, a hospital official said.

John Guarnieri and his wife moved to St. Augustine from New York in the early 90s after they retired, friends said. He was a police officer who worked for the Suffolk County Police Department from 1970 and retired in 1987, according to a department official. When they moved to this area, they joined the Ancient City Auto Club, friends said. There, they gained many friends including former club president Bob Quackenbush and his wife Jinny.

Bob Quackenbush remembered John restored three cars to perfection in the time he knew him and was planning on restoring another, a 1950s Dodge Pickup truck. He was a very friendly person,” Bob Quackenbush said. “He was a giving person.” He said he used to challenge people to try and find a blemish on one of John’s cars. “He was a perfectionist at doing it,” he said. “They could not find a nut or bolt that had not been done perfectly.”

Guarnieri won several awards for his ’55 Dodge from the Antique Automobile Club of America, including a “First Grand National” in 2010, according to AACA staff member Lynn Gawel. He was registered to compete for a Senior Grand National award, probably in Shelbyville. Bob Quackenbush said Guarnieri and his wife were headed to the Antique Automobile Club of America show in Tennessee when they crashed. Car club member Jackie Phillips said that she and her husband were friends with the Guarnieris. She said they have two sons.

“We still can’t believe it,” Phillips said. “He was very outgoing, loved to talk cars, and a very kindhearted man,” she said. “He loved his two boys.”

John Guarnieri’s work is featured in an article by Joe Greeves in Auto Enthusiast this month. Greeves, a freelance photographer and writer who lives in St. Augustine, knew Guarnieri through the car club and saw him last Friday at the “Old Guys With Old Cars Breakfast” at a local Steak ’n Shake.

Guarnieri had a copy of the article in his hands and was thrilled to see his work displayed, Greeves said. “He was very happy,” Greeves said. “He was showing it to everyone.”

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How sad. I saw several non shows on the field but never dreamed one of them was due to something like this. My prayers go out to the family.


Their vehicle had been scheduled to be in the class I was Team Captain for on Saturday. Certainly a sad time.

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I am a close friend of one of John's sons and am posting the following on behalf of the family:

The Guarnieri Family would like to thank everyone in the automotive community for your thoughts and prayers. Lynda is doing very well with her recovery but still has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. We have decided that John would prefer a charitable donation in lieu of other remembrances. Boys Town, a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for at-risk boys and girls, was always closest to his heart. Anyone who wishes to honor John's memory, please make a donation. Checks may be made out to Boys Town and sent to the following address:

Boys Town

PO Box 145 - Guarnieri Memorial

Boys Town, NE 68010

It would be greatly appreciated if this information would be shared to anyone in the community that knew John. The family will also be kept up to speed of any remembrances posted here.

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