I met Jeff “Egor” Surrell in 1995 when he caught the racing bug and showed up with a home-made racing machine ready to take on the world. In Jeff’s case, the racing machine was a tricked out lawn mower, and the world consisted of lawn mower racers from across the nation.
The fact that Jeff, soon to be known as “Egor” across this offbeat yet tight racing community, was able to use only one arm made little difference to his fellow competitors as he was quickly embraced and immediately viewed as a worthy opponent — and a true inspiration.
So, when Egor passed away suddenly on December 28 after shoveling snow in the Monroe town square, there was an outpouring of love, respect and admiration from across the land and across the pond. From his good friends Amy Holst and Dave Gombosi in Monroe to his racing buddies in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and as far away as West Sussex, England.
“Egor was such a hard and dedicated worker, he spent his days making a living working on small engine repairs, cutting grass, and in the winter shoveling snow,” said his friend Dave Gombosi of Monroe. “His passion and love for lawn mower racing was unusual to folks outside of the sport but Egor truly lived for the time he got to spend with the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association. It made him feel alive and just part of a team that shared his passion. He once told me he could just be himself and had no worries of what others thought of him. He felt accepted and loved by the community.
“Egor had a physical disability that hindered his ability to do certain things quickly, but this never dampened his spirit,” added Dave. “Egor was passionate about racing and the life it provided him out side of the day-to-day grind of his work life.
“Many people did not know the passionate side of this man. I remember a story he told about a few other families that were in need. Egor was not blessed with wealth but he would save a few dollars by not eating, but then would go out to buy a few small stuffed animals to give to the younger children of friends he was acquainted with. This was the man he was. Always compassionate and willing to give even though he had little in wealth he gave and asked for nothing in return but love.
A Celebration of Jeff’s Life will be held at a later date when all of his friends and family can gather together. A memorial fund is being established in Jeff’s name to assist with funeral expenses. Shriner Hager Gohlke Funeral Home is assisting the family. Condolences may be sent to the family at:
Memorials may be sent to: Jeff “Egor” Surrell Memorial Fund, PO Box 622 Monroe, WI 53566
“Egor, would save for many months just to save gas money to go to the races. I remember him saving, giving me money to hold for him as so he did not spend it. He then spent time prepping his racing lawnmower for the big races. He once told me he did expect to win! Others just had the money and ability to outperform his racing machine. He loved the camaraderie, he loved being able to talk shop with others who were equally passionate. But he just loved being loved, feeling part of a team!”
“Jeff owned Egor’s Lawn Service,” added his good friend Amy Holst also of Monroe. “He not only took care of lawns in the summer but he also provided snow removal in the winter. He had also previously worked at Farm and Fleet in Monroe, and had many other jobs working on motors and lawnmowers, which he loved. He loved seeing family, and always had a good story to tell when coming to a family gathering. Jeff loved nothing like he loved lawnmower racing, and had high hopes for the next racing season, with plans to be involved.”
I remember the time he drove all night from a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina to Apple River, Illinois, because he was in the hunt for a Points Championship. All for no money, only trophies, glory and bragging rights.
I too have bragging rights: The right to brag about the joy that we brought to Jeff Surrell, Egor, a one-handed racing wonder, and the inspiration he in turn gave to us.
Look around — maybe you know someone like him, and if you do, well, you’ll know what to do.
Mow on Egor, mow on.
— Bruce Kaufman, “Mr. Mow It All,” is the Founder and Past President of the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association, which was established in 1992.