Hanshi McGrath Presents Master Ralph Passero The First Devil Dog
In choosing the first “Devil Dog,” I wanted to ensure that the individual would be made of “The Right Stuff,” the embodiment of the term “Devil Dog” as it is used by the Marines. The person that I needed, stood close to me and held the guardianship of Grand Master Don Nagle, as an honored vow.
I first met Mr. Passero at a Nick Adler tournament, in Long Island . I was chief referee for the black belt heavyweight division and he was one of the contestants. Sizing up the match, in my mind, was easy. Mr. Passero looked a bit older and not in the same shape that he was in, when he was the terror of the tournament circuit. His opponent, was younger, with an Olympian build. While Mr. Passero stood still awaiting the start of the match, his opponent was jumping up and down, with a vertical leap of about four feet. I was sure that this young man would overwhelm his older opponent with speed, stamina and technique. We bowed in and I signaled the match to start. The young man stepped right in and caught a round-house kick from Master Passero, to the left temple. I awarded him the point and restarted the match, again watching the younger man circle Passero this time. Passero threw another round-house kick, which the opponent spun away from, only to have Master Passero with a burst of speed, close with him, throw a side kick that was blocked and simultaneously, score with a backfist to the face. I signaled the match over and Master Passero the winner. I then pulled him aside and said that I was sure the younger man, full of vim and vigor would win and that he totally surprised me. His comment was something akin to, “Yeah, I get that a lot.” Later, we sat and chatted and he has been one of my closest friends since. I depend upon his judgment in many instances, especially, when it comes to people’s character. Mr. Passero is the proto-typical street kid and the wisdom that he has comes from his experience and keen observance of people of all stature. I also knew and grew to love his father and can still picture him, as I arrived at a tournament with my bag over my shoulder, sitting in a chair, hands crossed atop his cane, half-turned in his chair, with a beatific smile on his face, “Yelling, “Eddie (no one ever called me Eddie, but Mr. Passero) sit over here, with me.” I would sit down and listen to him discuss his beloved Ralph and daughter-in-law, Lisa, with love and caring. Then he would often tell me a story, usually imparting some wisdom. Later, I found that Ralph would do the same, telling me a story about some human circumstance, which imparted a moral and insight into a particular situation. He has become my friend, my contact with more people that I ever met before. Everyone who meets him, loves him, because he is straight-up, loyal, truthful and above all, without fear or prejudice. I value his friendship.