Tony was a real character, one of those men that proved that if you never stopped moving, you will live a long, happy life. Tony lived in a house that faced the Green Bay and had lived in a remote area of Door County since retiring in 1983. His house on the water was the location that both him and his wife loved. Tony's retirement was in name only. He still hunted, every year on their land in the Door. Last summer, he put a new roof on his little one story house. By himself at age 89. Naturally, he asked for no help and told no one he was doing it until long after the job was done. The only reason we even found out that Tony was roofing was when one of the neighbors ratted him out to Jobu when he went up to visit.
Tony was a farmer, construction worker, and all around handyman. Any material, any time, anywhere the man could work with it. The years of laboring outside had roughened his skin and hands but had never dimmed the bright, gentle personality that made Tony such a favorite amongst me and my friends. Last year, when Jobu was having his 20th Anniversary party, Tony took the time to speak to everyone. The old man was so clearly enjoying himself amongst us, people forty years his junior. We all sought him out for a conversation in his seat near the house in the shade. Tony even sampled the English Brown Ale homebrew I brought to the party and declared it good. Tony liked to tell jokes and occasionally a story. His humor was light, enjoyable and he always told his jokes with a special twinkle in his eye.
I think that particular spark was what I liked so much about Tony. To be sure, Tony had faced problems and adversity in his life. One of his sons was killed in a tragic accident at a young age, his much younger wife had preceded him in death as had many of his sisters and a brother. Yet through it all, through all the years of hard farm and construction labor, Tony never lost hope or his spark. Even through the short illness that eventually claimed his life, Tony was optimistic, flirting with his nurses.
One of the best stories I have about Tony was during deer hunting in about 2003. I'm not a hunter, but I don't object when others hunt. It was mid-week and Jobu called me up. He asked if I had time to go up to Tony's with him. Tony had dropped a buck, but it was too far in the woods and too big for him to drag it back. Tony had open heart surgery about month to a month and a half earlier. I agreed and Jobu picked me up. We got to Tony's Bay house and hiked out into the woods. 180lbs buck lay dead, Tony had already gutted it and tied a rope to it to drag it back to the house. Jobu and I grabbed the rope and began to haul.
Now, at this point in my life, I had just learned about my anemia. It had been getting better but I was still pretty anemic. This translates into getting winded very fast. Jobu, for his part is a medical wreck. He's had two hernia surgeries, two back surgeries, and his neck wasn't the best. Our progress was slow and involved a lot of panting. At one point, where we stopped for a break Tony looked at the two of us, Jobu holding his back and me panting like a bellows and remarked that we were quite a trio with a grin. Between my inability to catch my breath and Jobu's back, Tony ended up pulling the deer every so often too. Frankly, the 80+ year old Tony, fresh out of heart surgery did better than either Jobu or I. Tony chucked about it and gently ribbed us the entire way back. The whole time, he had that little grin. Not mocking, but a grin that saw the humor of men in their 30s being outperformed by an octogenarian. A grin that let us in on the joke, that shared it with us.
Tony was a good man, a kind man, and one I am proud to have known. He will be missed. When next you find a drink in your hands, raise it up for Tony.
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