Posted by Jim Lehr (126.96.36.199) on December 10, 2000 at 13:02:13:
I first met Tony via the Wings On The Internet (WOTI) discussion group and it was through this cyber medium that we bacame friends. I learned that he was a high school history teacher, and promptly dubbed him "Tony da Teach". He loved that handle, later emblazoning his motorcycle trailer with a large graphic "TdT".
Our first face to face meeting came at a motel enroute to Wing Ding in Huntsville, Alabama. He was larger than life; a typical Californian. Suntanned, nattily attired in white shorts and tennis sneakers,etc. A big, loud, exhuberant bear of a man with few inhibitions. You instantly like him and his lovely wife Judy. The perfect pair, a retired Air Force Colonel, he and Judy were now teaching at the same high school and seemed to have the world by the tail.
Sometime after Wing Ding, Tony's marriage came apart and he suffered greatly with his loss. At Christmas time, we invited him East to our "beige house" Maryland. He and Jerry Elkins came and we had great fun with other WOTI's Bill Jermyn and Grumpy Weston .
In the Spring of 2000, JJ and I rode to Dallas to see Jerry...then pushed on to California to visit "Tones" in the
Valley of the Apples. He welcomed us into his beautiful home, which by now was much too empty without Judy. Nevertheless we had a great visit and I came to appreciate how much Tony loved his teaching career. His walls were adorned with Teacher of the Year awards which he coveted. I also learned that his father had been a well-known Air Force General and his prized possession was an autographed picture of his father with President Kennedy, for whom I believe he piloted Air Force One.
By the Summmer of 2000, Tony was well on his way to finding himself after his failed marriage but it was clear that this emotional guy suffered greatly.
I won't dwell on the stunning news of his tragic death. Only that it devastated those of us who had known and loved Tones. Such a loss, such a waste. I'll leave this note here with one final thought...one tragic mistake does not negate the great good in Tony's life; the good earned by years of dedicate and loyal service both to his country and to his community.
Jim Lehr (aka Swagman)
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