Motorcycles lined the 
Hausbarn Konferenz Centre in Manning on Saturday for James “Dago” Marchellino’s funeral. He was a member of the Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club.
Motorcycles lined the Hausbarn Konferenz Centre in Manning on Saturday for James “Dago” Marchellino’s funeral. He was a member of the Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club.

March 7, 2016

Manning

On its face, there was little pomp and circumstance at an outlaw motorcycle club funeral a little more than a week ago in Manning. Most people wore jeans.

The imposing men at the table up front — with their thick beards and weathered, leather vests — passed around a big bottle of whiskey, taking gulps and clearing their throats. The bottle was mostly gone by the time the funeral began that Saturday about 2 p.m.

A man who stood off to the side spit tobacco juice into a pop can.

The hundreds who gathered Feb. 27 at the Hausbarn Konferenz Centre crammed into its main banquet hall to mark the passing of James “Dago” Marchellino. That’s pronounced “Day-go.”

He most recently lived a few miles south of Carroll and had been a member of the Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club for nearly 37 years.

The Sons are among a handful of outlaw motorcycle clubs in the United States that the Department of Justice deems are of greatest concern. The Sons’ membership ranges from 200 to 300, spread across 30 states.

They “have been implicated in numerous criminal activities, including murder, assault, drug trafficking, intimidation, extortion, prostitution operations, money laundering, weapons trafficking, and motorcycle and motorcycle parts theft,” the Justice Department has said.

Indeed, “Dago” was incarcerated for about 20 years in Iowa for a burglary he was too drunk to remember, according to court records that are decades old.

But the club’s ties to violent crime wasn’t evident at the funeral. There were laughs and tears as the ceremony vacillated between boisterous and somber.

“He was the best man I’ve ever known,” said a fellow Son nicknamed “Apache,” who oversaw the proceedings in Manning.

There were no pews. Instead, the family and early arrivers sat at round tables, and the rest ringed the perimeter of the room.

It grew so crowded as the funeral began that Apache asked some people to spill into an adjoining room, but none did.

Dago, 58 when he died from complications of diabetes at a Des Moines hospital, was in his casket up front. Beside him were some flowers on stands and his guitar.

He was a songwriter and poet who played folksy music with guitars and piano. He sang of good and bad times and heartache: “Let’s put away the past and go for something that’ll last. We’re getting old too fast, and I’m tired of being alone,” he somberly sings in his song called “Damaged Goods.”

He wrote and produced at least three albums.

A fellow Son named “Chopper” took the floor for a bit, read one of Dago’s poems but declined to tell stories about his fallen friend.

“Half of the stories you wouldn’t believe, and the other half I can’t remember,” Chopper said.

Another Son, “Bear,” told of the first time he spoke at-length with Dago. They were at a bar, and Dago asked him to join him in his “office” — the bar’s walk-in cooler.

They drank a handle of whiskey and ate Quaaludes, and later, when Bear drove from their camp to town to buy a pack of cigarettes, he said he crashed his then-girlfriend’s car into a train.

“I didn’t even feel it,” Bear recalled. “Thanks, Dago.”

Another Son who spoke said Dago regretted the time he spent in prison — 19 years in Iowa, according to state records. The man read a letter from Dago’s daughter, who said Dago cried when he talked of the time father and daughter had lost while he was locked up.

Dago was imprisoned for about 17 years starting in 1989 for a burglary conviction.

It was February 1988 when Dago — apparently egged on by his then-girlfriend — went into a Webster City house, grabbed a sleeping woman by the hair and punched her in the mouth, according to court records.

The women had been quarreling.

“James, who is a large man, consumed prodigious amounts of alcoholic beverages ... By his own account, he alone consumed two bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey and one bottle of tequila” before the incident, a judge wrote.

Dago had claimed that he was too intoxicated to be responsible for his actions, but a judge convicted him anyway. Dago previously refused a plea agreement, which might have resulted in a lesser prison sentence.

Dago had been free of the state correctional system for about 13 years before his death.

“He’s in heaven,” Apache said near the end of Dago’s funeral. “I know he’s not in hell because they wouldn’t want him.”

Then he asked the mass of people to go outside so that they could get ready to transport Dago to his final resting spot in Colorado, the national cemetery for Sons members.

“Clear the f------ room,” he eventually said.

And the pomp and circumstance?

The rest of the club with their leather vests lined the way, as casket bearers Austin Stone, Gary Madsen, Steeple, Dozer, Big Steve, Beef, Porkchop and Bronson carried their fallen brother from the building.

Dago was buried in Colorado on Saturday.