Farewell John Dorfner

by Jerry Cimino

Farewell John Dorfner

The Beat community lost a long time contributor and good friend this week. John Dorfner, of Raleigh, North Carolina, passed away after a long illness. John is survived by his wife Diane, daughters Jolie and Jamie, his grandchildren and other family members.

My first contact with John was in 1991 when he sent a copy of his first book Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount to us for my wife to sell at her coffeehouse/bookshop in Monterey. This was years before we’d even thought of the Beat Generation Catalog, which predated our website kerouac.com, 1-800-KER-OUAC, and The Beat Museum.

In Kerouac: Vision of Rocky Mount, John extensively covered ground long overlooked by most Kerouac fans. This little 65-page gem includes 56 photographs of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and the Big Easonburg Woods, where Jack’s sister Nin lived with her husband and son, Paul Blake, Jr. Jack spent a lot of time in the Blake house, where he would write his visions of the world from the back porch. The cottage was small, and Kerouac described it in both On the Road and Visions of Cody. Its back porch served as both his room and study in both Dharma Bums and Desolation AngelsVisions of Gerard was written in the kitchen of that house. 

John’s second book, Kerouac: Visions of Lowell, arrived about a year later with a nice personalized inscription from John. Similar in format to his first book, this one too was chock full of black and white photographs.

I finally had the opportunity to meet John face to face when John Allen Cassady and I drove the original Beat Museum on Wheels across the USA in 2004. We had a show lined up at an all-girls high school, Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC, and John and Diane were gracious enough to host us while we were in town. In fact, we made their home our base of operations while we were in the South, them tossing us a key so we could come and go as needed. 

John Dorfner and John Cassady would play guitar together late into the nights on many occasions long after the rest of us had gone to bed. John Dorfner and John Cassady loved their guitars, and I know these late night sessions meant a lot to both of them.

An interview with Dorfner over at Empty Mirror, on the occasion of Kerouac’s induction into the Rocky Mount Hall of Fame, the result of Dorfner’s efforts >

Part I of The Beatific Soul by Franki Grigoni, featuring a discussion with John Dorfner about Kerouac’s time in North Carolina >