It is with unbearable sadness and a giant hole in my heart that I write the following words. John Dorocki, the legendary co-founder of the South Jersey Seashore Lifeguard Convention Band, guitarist/keyboardist/monkey-noise-maker/player of various exotic instruments, the man who taught me how to play the guitar, and my best friend of about 24 years, passed away Friday morning. I am devastated beyond belief, as all of us who knew him and loved him are.
I was honored to have been given the opportunity to eulogize John yesterday.
It was incredibly difficult to write, and yet he made it easy for me by just being who he was.
I could write a novel about John Dorocki.
I probably will someday.
In the meantime, here is the eulogy:
"Thank you all for coming here today to celebrate the life of our great friend, brother, uncle and son John Dorocki. This hurts. This hurts a lot. And it hurts this much because of how much we all loved John, and how great of a friend he was to us all. Everyone loved John. Just look around you. Many of us have known John for most of our lives, but there are also many people here who only met John a handful of times. John left that kind of an impression on people. It was impossible not to like him immediately. John was full of love. He loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved complete strangers. He loved life. He loved people. He loved having a great time. He became friends with everyone I ever introduced him to, and for that reason I always looked forward to introducing him to people. As a friend said to me the other night, you were proud to introduce John Dorocki to people. You were proud to be friends with him. That's the kind of person, the kind of friend John was. He was a legend.
John and I met in 4th grade at wrestling camp. He was a wrestling champion who had just moved to Basking Ridge from New Providence. He had trophies and medals and framed photos on his wall to prove it. I was a chubby little dork looking for a friend. One day at camp I overheard John talking about his Sega Genesis and the many games he had for it. "When can I come over?" I asked him. “Whenever. I just have to ask my mom.” he said. He had a real high pitched voice back then. I would end up coming over a lot, as the Dorockis can tell you. Their house became my second home. I ate so many dinners over there I think my mom started to become a little jealous. Best tuna noodle casserole in the world. I’m pretty sure the household grocery bill doubled after John and I became friends.
John and I liked all the same things: the same video games, the same sports, the same movies, the same bands, and yes, occasionally the same girls, which would often lead us right back to where we started: wrestling. He would win, of course. Both the wrestling, and the girls.
Like I said, he was a champion.
John was also an artist.
And he was a genius.
Anyone who has ever seen his photography or heard his music knows this. His photographs captured the soul of everyone and everything around him, and his music was the outward expression of his own soul. When you look at John’s photographs you see life through his eyes, and it was an amazing life.
When you hear his music you hear his heart.
There was nothing cliched or derivative about John’s art.
It was special. It was one of a kind. Just like him.
In college John taught me how to play the guitar. Every night for months we sat in his apartment and he would show me chords and scales and we would make horrible, horrible noise together until after a while it actually started to sound like...less horrible noise. The night we started The South Jersey Seashore Lifeguard Convention Band was the happiest night of my life. We wrote and recorded 18 of the worst songs you'll ever hear in your life, but I didn't care. I was making music with my best friend and there was no better sound in the world.
Being in a band with John wasn't always easy of course. But it was always entertaining. It was always an adventure.
We played a show at a festival in Georgia 6 or 7 years ago. We were about to play a song called White Light and I was a little worried. John was notorious for playing the keyboard part in the wrong key. I looked over at him and asked him "are you ready?" and he held up his hands and said "wait wait wait wait wait" (his voice had dropped by then) and then played the melody on his keyboard once to refresh his memory. "I got this I got this" he assured me. He assured the band and even assured the crowd as well. "I got this." A few seconds later we started the song and yep, he was in the wrong key again. I glared at him and he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders and jumped offstage. A minute later John returned to the stage with a bag of popcorn and for the rest of the show he fed everyone in the band popcorn out of his hand while we played. Bag Of Popcorn wasn't exactly the instrument I was hoping he was going to play that night, but I didn’t care, it was hilarious.
You could never stay mad at John. It was impossible. Even at his most stubborn. And John could be pretty stubborn at times. He had what I liked to call his "Book of Facts" a series of minor inaccuracies he touted as truth, sometimes even long after being proven wrong. One night at practice John swore that Kris Kristofferson had died recently. He said he remembered coming home from work that day and mourning with Lauren all night while listening to Kris Kristofferson's greatest hits. The rest of us disagreed with him and we bet a pizza on it. We went online and checked and even after we saw that Kris Kristofferson was not only very much alive, he was on tour and playing in New York the following week, John was STILL pretty sure Kris Kristofferson had died. He did buy us the pizza though.
The past few days have been unimaginably painful for all of us. My heart breaks for John and for the entire Dorocki family and for everyone who knew and loved him. Like all of you I am still having trouble believing this is real. I want to call him. I want to text him. I expect to see him online and chat with him. I expect him to walk through the door right now and say “what’s up?”
And then I remember, and it hits me all over again.
But John is not gone. He lives inside all of us now, in the stories we will share for the rest of our lives, in our greatest memories and in our heavy hearts. The one person who has gotten me through the past few days is John himself. Going through old photos and videos I couldn't stop smiling and laughing and that's what we should all try to do every day. Think about John's life. You will feel incredibly lucky to have known him.
We love you John. You will always be missed and will never be forgotten. Rest in peace old friend. And say hi to Kris Kristofferson for me. Thanks."
I will be posting more stories, photos and videos in the coming days as we remember our greatest friend and bandmate. Here is a video Eve shot a couple months back after practice at our house. An outtake from the Church of Song Promo Video. It is beautiful.