Tony Viera (in white sweater in center of photo) back in 1970
Photo by the Charlie Folger, owner of The Camera Shop
For the past four years we've lived year-round on Nantucket, I've passed our neighbor Tony Viera (affectionately known as "One Eyed Tony") in my car, on my bike or on foot virtually every day as he worked on his recycling projects out in front of his house. He and his dog Buddy were always there, rain or shine. But now they're not there ever since Tony tragically died in an accident recently at the island's recycling center after being run over by a truck.
When we first moved here, I was a little unsure about Tony and he, I think, felt the same way about me as a transplanted Californian. One winter day that first year he flagged me down in my car and I cringed, thinking he was going to complain about me driving too fast, etc. When I rolled down the window, he said that he just wanted to let me know that there was a freeze forecast and that he wanted to be sure I didn't slide in my car on ice on the road in front of the house when I returned home from work. He knew I wasn't very experienced in driving in winter weather and was concerned. From then on, he always had a smile, a wave and a laugh whenever I passed.
Last summer after a heavy rainstorm I was walking home from the bus stop by the Odd Fellows lodge and I reached a deep puddle completly covering both the sidewalk and road in front of Tony's house. He offered to give me a ride on the back of his truck somewhat like a fireman hanging on the fender to get me over the puddle. I graciously declined but we both got a good laugh about it for some time to come.
Though I wasn't a big fan of his mini-junkyard in the front yard, I am thankful for his neighborly ways and the way he made us feel welcomed. We will miss his hearty laugh and friendly smile as we drive along Cato Lane. He was certainly one of a kind!
Craig and I attended his memorial service at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Friday, June 11, one week after he died. The church was filled with family, friends and neighbors. The most poignant part of the service was a eulogy delivered by Tony's cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Garasic of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He got to know Tony when he treated him for a cardiac problem at Mass General several years back. As he fought back tears, Dr. Garasic described how he and Tony had become friends over the past few years. His poignant anecdotes brought laughs and tears to everyone who was in the audience. I'm glad we were able to be there to bring closure to such a tragic loss.