Retiree hits the road for God

McClatchy Newspapers


Tony DeLLomo is on a mission from God.

In a hard-to-miss motor home covered with biblical passages, “Jesus is God” signs and an offer of a free Bible, DeLLomo has been spreading the Gospel by parking in high-traffic spots throughout central Florida.

“It’s all to glorify God,” DeLLomo said while wearing a sleeveless, white hooded sweatshirt with “Jesus is King” in red letters.

A Philadelphia native, DeLLomo, 65, has been on the road for more than 10 years, sharing his message from coast to coast. He and his Labrador retriever, Lady, arrived in Orlando, Fla., more than a month ago after stops along the East Coast.

DeLLomo had been parked on a patch of grass off Turkey Lake Road near Interstate 4 in south Orange County, but a code-enforcement officer told him to leave last week. He moved to a spot near the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue, .

“I work for God from when I wake up until I go to bed,” DeLLomo said.

While he was at a Walmart earlier this week, several motorists stopped to take pictures, but nobody spoke to him. DeLLomo said: The motor home says it all.

“It kind of tells people what God has to say, that Jesus saves,” DeLLomo said. On the side of his motor home, another passage puts it bluntly: “The day of the Lord cometh . He shall destroy the sinners.”

DeLLomo’s style isn’t confrontational and he isn’t concerned with saving souls. There’s nothing anyone can do to be saved, as DeLLomo sees it, because “God saves who He wants.” He also says all churches are “spiritually dead” and that the Bible is the only true authority.

DeLLomo’s views and methods do have a precedent in Christianity, said Todd Brenneman, a University of Central Florida religion instructor.

Sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin preached predestination, the belief that God elects those who will get eternal life. Brenneman said DeLLomo’s approach, which is different from hellfire-and-brimstone street preachers, is a trend among evangelists.

Driving cross-country in a motor home is an extreme form of spreading the word, Brenneman said. “He is kind of taking it to another level.”

A longtime union painter, DeLLomo considered himself a Catholic for much of his life. He attended Mass, DeLLomo said, but he gambled, smoked and drank.

That changed 15 years ago, when he bought a Bible at an auction, began reading it and decided he didn’t want to sin anymore, he recalled.

After he retired, DeLLomo hit the road, stopping at state fairs, music festivals, NASCAR races and anywhere people gather. He is married, and his wife, Liz, lives in New Jersey.

To finance his journey, DeLLomo receives money from a pension, a settlement from an injury, veteran’s benefits from his service in the Army and a monthly Social Security check.

He lives a meager life — running errands on his bicycle, showering at Planet Fitness (he’s a member) and sleeping in the motor home behind a restaurant in Orange County. He’ll stay there until he’s asked to leave.

DeLLomo takes evictions in stride because, he said, it’s the Lord telling him to move on. He doesn’t know how long he’ll stay in Central Florida because that is in God’s hands.

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