John ‘The Duke’ Wayne Atyeo, 1961-2018


Somedays I don’t think this old heart can take anymore pain and crying really screws with a guy’s masculinity. I say this after learning that yet another friend of mine has passed away.

John Wayne Atyeo and I met while he was still operating the recycled waste route in our neighborhood.  After ‘single-stream’ recycling began in the Eagle Canyon area, Waste Management transferred him elsewhere.

Off and on, depending how busy he was that Thursday (our recycle day) we’d stop and visit for a few minutes, exchanging stories and laughter. From those relatively short chats, I learned that he had wrestled for and graduated in 1979 from Hug High, in Reno, Nevada; joined the U.S.  Marine Corps shortly after high school; and named after his father’s favorite actor, ‘John Wayne,’ “while being conceived in Hawai’i while my dad was on leave from ‘Nam and mom was there visiting him.”

An avid bodybuilder, ‘The Duke’ could hardly contain himself as he told me about how he’d place second in the ‘Master Men 50,’ and sixth in the ‘Men’s Middleweight’ classes of the Nevada State Bodybuilding, Figure & Bikini Championships in 2012, while three-years later he placed 11th in the ‘Men’s Middleweight’ and seventh in the ‘Masters over 50’ catagories. The last time I talked to him was in early November 2016, shortly after he took down an alleged gunman at a Trump rally being held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

I remember how excited he was – and John was not the excitable-type – as he told me, “Someone yelled ‘He has a gun!’ I looked behind me and I saw this guy running through the crowd, so I tackled the guy to the ground.”

“I mean it was instinct or training, I don’t know, but I do know I couldn’t wait for him to take a shot at Trump,” he added.

“I tackled him from behind,” John explained . “He didn’t know I was coming, and I tackled him  hard and I threw him on the ground. I restrained his legs so he couldn’t move them. I also had his left arm, and at the same time I was trying to search him and get a hold of the gun. As I was doing this, he kept trying to get his arms free from my grip which made me think he really did have a weapon.”

John was pretty happy with himself and as we talked I looked the story up on the Internet, telling him he’d made the New York Times. “I hate that rag – but now I have to go find where I can get one,” he laughed.

“Yeah, Anita (his wife) is kind of miffed at me,” he chuckled, “But I also think she’s secretly proud of me, too.”

John passed away from a massive heart attack while working on October 29, 2018 in Reno, Nevada. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee on February 8, 1961. He was only 57-years-old.

But tonight, I’m hoisting a double whiskey, high in John’s honor, while shedding tears for everyone’s loss.

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