A Tribute To My Dear Friend Melissa  

Melissa Trow

LEBANON, N.H. – This is a story about friendship, friends that become like family and heartbreak. I don’t know how else to define further what this is that you’re reading today because I’m heartbroken. This is a dedication to my friend Melissa Trow. 

Most of you probably have no idea who Melissa is, but I can almost guarantee if you met her you’d have a hard time not calling her a friend after meeting her. 

A little back story to all of this. I’m not exactly what you would call a people person. I’m not much of a sociable sort. Social anxiety has always been a struggle for me. I’m in my 29th year of covering motorsports and short track racing in New England. For a long stretch of that I had a really hard time letting anyone get beyond the “I’m just here doing my job” wall I had put up. The wall was and still is a tall one to get past. That’s the protective nature of social anxiety. It takes a long time to build the trust to let someone past the wall to become a true friend. 

And then there are some unique souls that just knock the wall down. The one’s that basically say “Put your anxiety away because you’re going to love me.” If you don’t know the Ferrigno family, you learn quickly they’re those types of people. 

In 2009 I was covering an event at Stafford Speedway called the 24 Hours of LeMons. It was a unique event where fun and frivolity was combined with endurance motorsports. It was at some point early in the event weekend that Joey Ferrigno attached himself to me for two days. 

I knew Joey’s name and had met him a couple times before that through his previous racing endeavors at Stafford Speedway. But it was at the 24 Hours of LeMons event where I really met the driver dubbed “The Mayor” at Stafford. Joey was helping out a team running a Porsche 944 in the event. They were having all sorts of issues that Joey was chasing down. I was a little lost in the chaos of the event and Joey became kind of my guidepost for the weekend. I learned quickly that once you let Joey just a little bit in he was going to smash down any walls of resistance that were left. He was big, loud, fun loving, mildly offensive, wildly brash but always warmly welcoming. Joey actually became the first racer who somehow got me to mingle in social racing settings away from doing my job. 

So back in 2013 we introduced the New England Racing Fuel RaceDayCT Performer of the Week Award for local tracks in Connecticut. The award was sponsored by New England Racing Fuel and the winner would be awarded a fuel card from New England Racing Fuel. In 2014 we opened up the award to be voted on by fans each week. Over the first few weeks of the season we’d get 500 or so people voting each week. 

On June 6, 2014 Joey Ferrigno won the SK Light Modified feature at Stafford Speedway. And then Joey went on a campaign mission to win that $20 gas card from New England Racing Fuel. He got 657 votes of the record 1,584 cast that week for the award. On July 18, 2014 Ferrigno won again at Stafford and once again ran away with the voting for the award. And he won the award again following an Aug. 1, 2014 win. It was clear “The Mayor” knew how to get his constituents voting each time he won.

During that season I noticed there had been a woman on Twitter who would often comment about Joey’s wins at Stafford. The username on the account was @FrigZ and there wasn’t much more in the bio about her other than that she lived in New Hampshire. After Joey won again on Aug. 8, 2014 at Stafford the woman in New Hampshire posted on Twitter that it was time for another fuel vote for Joey to win. 

I just happened to be with Joey in the parking lot at Stafford when this woman posted the tweet. I said to Joey, “There is a woman on Twitter who is obsessed with you.” Joey quickly said, “Oh, lemme check her out.” I showed him my phone with her Twitter account page opened and he gasped.

“Dude, that’s my sister” he said, laughing. 

Joey and Melissa after a win in 2014 at Stafford Speedway

And from there I had another bold and outgoing Ferrigno family member knocking down the walls I put up. Like her brother, Melissa is the type of person that isn’t going to let anyone’s shyness deter her from the mission of making her presence known in your life. I think it was the next event she came to at Stafford that she showed up with a bag of apples for me she got from a farm stand in New Hampshire she passed on her way to track, all because I had posted a tweet about being picky about apples. Melissa became one of those few people in racing I let get past the wall. 

If there ever was a fan club for RaceDayCT I can guarantee Melissa would demand she be the president. She always joked that she is the unofficial vice president of RaceDayCT. I know she possessed more RaceDayCT swag than anyone else on this earth. 

In July 2017 Melissa invited me to her wedding. When I met her parents James and Mary it didn’t take long to realize where Joey and Melissa got their outgoing nature. James Ferrigno was more outgoing and bold than both of his children. Five minutes after meeting him I felt like he was my new favorite uncle. He called me Randy, apparently because I reminded him of a firefighter he had previously worked with. Randy became my name whenever I saw James.

Before the July 2017 NASCAR Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway I had been talking with the media relations staff at the track about some unique ideas they had for doing social media outreach. We had talked about doing a “Fan Takeover” day through my website’s social media channels for the July 16, 2017 event in Loudon. Melissa is not only a fan of short track racing, but she also loves everything NASCAR. I thought she would be the perfect fit for a fan takeover day in Loudon. So Melissa and her friend Samantha were tasked with being the Fan Takeover duo for that day in Loudon. The track gave them all access to all the prerace festivities and they got to use the RaceDayCT social media channels to share the experience of being fans who suddenly got to go wherever they wanted at the race track. They were perfect for the task. Melissa’s bold fearlessness meant if there was some place for those two to stick their noses into and make their presence known, they would find it. They made happen exactly what was expected of the job.

Melissa and Samantha at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

In September 2017 Melissa found out she was pregnant. And then on November 17, 2017 she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She fought through cancer treatments through her pregnancy and on May 15, 2018 Melissa and her husband Josh welcomed their beautiful and healthy daughter Olivia. 

Since that diagnosis in November 2017 Melissa has battled courageously through all the ups and downs that cancer could bring. She fought all the way without losing her optimism, her will to beat it or her bold and outgoing nature. She has never been shy in talking about what she was going through. Her wit never wavered. Her ability to always inject humor and sarcasm into everything, sometimes dark and even a bit uncomfortable with the cancer, never went away. With every setback she faced she seemingly found more courage and determination to fight off the way cancer was so brutally attacking her body. And she became a fierce advocate and supporter of so many others going through what she was facing. 

Thursday my 38-year old friend Melissa transitioned into hospice care. It was agonizing and heartbreaking to learn this. 

When I went to see her yesterday at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. she still had her wit about her. She joked about her brother Joey getting on her case recently about buying Olivia “boujee” macaroni and cheese. We talked about her love of racing and her dad taking her and Joey to Winston Cup banquets in New York City when they were kids. About how Richard Petty befriended her in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and took her around with her autograph book to meet all the drivers he could find for her. And she apologized to me because she wasn’t going to see me at the SRX Series event on July 13 at Stafford Speedway. 

“Do you know anyone who wants my tickets?” she said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to get to go this year.” 

If you’re the praying type, please say a prayer today for Melissa, her husband Josh, their sweet daughter Olivia, her mom and dad and her brother Joey. I’ll forever appreciate the loving, laughing and fierce friendship I forged with Melissa. I can never thank her enough for that. And I will forever admire her extraordinary courage in battling through all she has endured. 

Melissa, her husband Josh and their daughter Olivia


  1. Suitcase Jake says

    A friend loves at all times Proverbs 17:17… A sweet friendship refreshes the soul Prov- 27:9 .. Thank you for sharing this deep hurt, Prayers are sent for Melissa & Family & you Shawn…These friendships are what makes life worth living, we are refreshed by simply being around Friends like Melissa…

  2. Mark Andrews says

    Prayers for this Courageous Woman and Kind Human Being.❤️🙏

  3. Tony Leckey says

    Heartwarming story and my prayers are for Melissa to receive a miracle and prayers of comfort and strength to her husband, daughter, and the entire Ferrigno family. Friends like this come about once in a lifetime and you are blessed to have made that friendship.

  4. Steven Skaling says

    I will pray and send positive thoughts to Melissa and her entire family. Her positive approach is an inspiration. Thank you for bringing Melissa to our attention.

  5. wmass01013 says

    Wow, Thank you for sharing this special person, Prayers to her and her entire Family and to you Shawn!!

  6. Bob “the snake” Georgiades says

    Nice tribute to Melissa, Shawn. I don’t believe I have ever personally met Melissa, but wish I had. Unusual seeing myself and my race team introduced Joey to his first Stafford racing experience. He started hanging around our garage that used to be around the corner from his house. We started bringing him to the track and getting him into the pits underaged. He was immediately bitten and I hope that racing bug brought joy and fed the racing passion for the entire Ferrigno family. Many prayers go out to them all.

  7. Very heart warming. I definitely will keep Melissa in my prayers.

  8. Stuart A Fearn says

    Prayers for Mellisa and the Ferrigno family first and thank you Shawn for a heartwarming story.
    Hopefully people share this story and spread word of a good human as a roll model of how to live this life.

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