I met my high school classmate Victor Agnello in Mr. Scherr’s 10th-grade English class at Armijo High School. I have a vague memory of him and David Salvitti, who was then and is now the biggest Parliament-Funkadelic fan in the universe, debating the merits of P-Funk versus hard rock.
Victor was a drummer with infectious energy. He was very charismatic and girls swooned over him because of his looks and yet he was cool to everyone. A friend of Vic’s, Todd Frank, said it best: “I’ve always said if Victor wasn’t such a great guy, I would have hated him.”
In our senior year, 1982, Vic’s band Sorcerer played in the Armijo gym. One song I remember them doing was Van Halen’s then-popular cover version of the Roy Orbison classic “Oh, Pretty Woman.” He later joined an up-and-coming metal band called Lääz Rockit.
They released their first album, “City’s Gonna Burn,” in 1984 and were part of the burgeoning Bay Area thrash metal scene. That year I saw them at Solano Community College and also opening for Mercyful Fate at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco. The latter was memorable because it was the first time I’d experienced moshing, which I was shocked to see a metal crowd doing, as I thought only punk fans “slam-danced.”
In 1999, I was at a cabin in a church camp with three other guys, all of us in our mid-30s. We stayed up late, talking like teenagers, and one guy mentioned he used to jam with a local band. Another guy said he knew a guy in high school who played bass for a band. I told them about Vic. We were all stunned to discover we were talking about the same band, Lääz Rockit. When the fourth guy came in and had no connection with Lääz, we jokingly ostracized him.
In 2008, I reconnected with Victor to do a feature story for the Daily Republic. I Googled him and was surprised to find that he was a beloved allergy doctor with his own practice in North Carolina. He’d also served in the U.S. Army. The story, “Vic Agnello, Heavy Metal Doctor,” ran in the spring of that year.
In the spring of 2013, Victor was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His initial post on a website called Caring Bridges was full of his usual optimism. He was confident he would beat it.
His wife Emily posted periodic updates of the ups and downs of his treatment. Victor posted in November of last year. He fought hard and he fought well, but on June 1, Victor died.
I have had classmates die. Vic’s death has been hands down the hardest to deal with simply because of what a genuinely nice person he was.
There was a memorial for Victor in Pleasant Hill recently and the members of Lääz Rockit spoke as well as me and two close friends of Vic’s and my classmates, Brad Farmer and Miguel Rivera.
I have already been more committed to the American Cancer’s Society’s Relay for Life (Fairfield’s is July 19 at Armijo) than ever before, but the tragedy of this brutal disease taking such a loving and kind person who leaves behind a wife and seven daughters has steeled my resolve.
Action aids in healing. The Agnello Family Fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank and you can deposit a check at any Well’s Fargo branch nationwide. You can also mail a check (made out to “Emily R. Agnello – Agnello Family Fund”) to: Wells Fargo, 352 Williamson Road, Mooresville, NC 28117.
To donate to my Relay for Life team or dedicate a luminaria in Victor’s name online, visit: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/iguift.
Now, to be clear, I was not a close friend of Vic’s. There were many people, such as the aforementioned Todd, Brad and Miguel, as well as Ralph “Bruddah Keahi” Renaud and Michael Weese, who knew him much better than I did.
But that’s the point. I am torn up because Victor Agnello was only the third person I have met in my life, besides John Gibson and Matt Garcia, who had the unique ability to make everyone feel like they were his special friend.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.