On Saturdays in the fall and spring, Calf Pasture Beach is home to the Norwalk Karting Association—a beach sleepover, so sunk by speed its parking lot becomes a racetrack.
“This is our 51st year. We go from 5-year-olds to any age,” said Tom Donahue, President of Norwalk Karting. “We have nine guys who started here and are now on the NASCAR track.”
They include Randy LaJoie, Corey LaJoie, Parker Kligerman, and Ronnie Silk.
“For some people, it’s as good as it gets,” said member Hugh Gorman, referring to himself.
Hugh is one of the oldest drivers at 63.
“I absolutely love go-kart racing – yeah!” Tell News 12 with a smile.
Hugh started about eight years ago after life derailed. His brother died of cancer in 2012.
“Liam…was a good, big brother. He was a year older than me, so we were close,” Hugh said tearfully. “If someone needs to cover my back, they’re always there.”
Liam Gorman was also a champion rider with Norwalk Karting.
“A very good driver, and he called these people his people. He was always happy here,” Hugh explained.
So in 2014, Hugh decided to honor Liam by finding and buying back his brother’s old kart.
“I was going to campaign around it in his honour, and it soon became … Now I understand why he raced karts for so long,” said Hugh.
Liam’s number was 41. Hugh’s became 341.
Hugh recalled: “In the first even races I was afraid to do him justice. I was too slow”.
There was a learning curve, but as time went on, Hugh was racing all over the East Coast, even winning his degree. His brother kart is now retired, but Liam is still part of the new kart.
“I have the number 41 with a shamrock in it,” Hugh said. “I can see it. Nobody can.”
It’s a relief, especially on that day, the first time Hugh had been back in a year and a half.
On August 14, 2021, he was admitted to Waterbury Hospital with COVID-19 and things quickly got worse.
“So they intubated me, and I went into…a coma…sleep,” Hugh said, trailing as his eyes filled with tears.
During that time, Hugh suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side.
“They were telling my wife things I didn’t know at the time, that I wouldn’t be able to talk or walk or feed myself,” said Hugh, feeling choked.
“It was all dope,” added Sally Gorman, his wife of 34 years.
Hugh still hadn’t woken up on September 24th. His doctors told Sally there was nothing more they could do and suggested that he be taken off life support. Sally talked about it with the family and made the difficult decision to do so.
“He was at peace,” she said emotionally. “It wouldn’t be anything else. It wouldn’t be COVID or pneumonia or blood infection or stroke.”
Sally is ready to say goodbye. Then, two days later, Hugh woke up.
“I looked at Hugh and I went over to him, and I said, ‘Do you know who I am?'” And he nodded yes,” Sally recalled.
Hugh was awake but couldn’t do much of anything.
“Sally had to give me my options, which weren’t good,” Hugh told News 12.
He can go to a state institution, to hospice or to get an opportunity for intensive rehabilitation.
Hugh replied, “I don’t give up,” the first words he had said to his wife since waking up.
So Hugh went to Gaylord Hospital on October 8th.
“I think it was October 27th, I took six steps. Great day,” Hugh told News12 while sobbing. “She was on the treadmill, you know, and the parallel bars, but there was a six. And I think the next day it was 18, then 30, and we were running and running. They taught me everything I can do now.”
“They worked Gaylord’s magic, and we felt like we had fun beyond that,” said Sally.
But even with all that Hugh has accomplished, there is still a question of whether he will ever race again.
Sally explained, “It’s what he loves. And so even the doctors will talk about him, ‘Would he be able to do that?'” “And so for them to say, ‘No, he’s never going back to kart again,’ it’s more rewarding to see him out there having fun.”
Hugh was excited about his return but admitted, “My expected level of success was much greater than after about five laps of practice.”
And while Hugh would like it to be a little quicker, the finish still finishes. He’s just grateful to be back on track.
“I knew in my heart that this day would come, I just didn’t know when,” said Hugh.