Big brother, comic, comforter, great softball player, trivia genius… those are just a few loving memories we all have of Tony. Tragically, Tony Kaforey, Jr. took his own life in the summer of 2018.
Tony was the oldest of 6 children (5 boys and 1 girl) and was a brother you could always go to for any reason. He loved his entire family and always had a big smile on his face. Especially when he was around his many nieces & nephews. To his siblings, his moniker was “Ace”. But to them, he was their “Uncle T”. When Tony was with them, he was just another kid that loved to play. But he was also very protective of them, even taking the blame for broken vases, ripped curtains, or a spilled drink. Somehow, he was always the guilty party. Always… “Uncle T’s did it”, or “Don’t blame them. I’m at fault”. Ask what the odds are that he was guilty of everything… and Tony would just laugh and say, “You couldn’t even place the bet!”
Here is what a couple of his many nieces & nephews wanted you to know about their Uncle T:
“Despite his age while we were growing up, Uncle T always knew how to have fun and act like one of us. Everything from doing somersaults in the living room, having momentous water balloon fights, to playing video games with us. All while the other adults played cards.”
“As I grew older, Uncle T became someone I could talk to about anything. He was always sending me emails to support me in any way he could. Suggestions for my website, thoughts about my job, or just wishing me luck in the fantasy league we all played in. These may seem like small things, but knowing someone was always in your corner, ready to go to bat for you, was nice.”
Personally, I will forever cherish all the talks, emails, phone calls, and text messages we shared. Mostly talking about hockey and our favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I cannot thank Tony enough for getting me back into the game after I quit watching when I was younger. We spent a lot of time discussing trades, games, and more. He would record interviews on local radio with Penguins players just so I could hear them.
With Tony being the oldest and myself the youngest, and though 10 years and 3000 miles between us, we were still able to have a great relationship. Each time we made plans to visit the rest of our family in Rochester, NY, Tony would drive the 300 miles from Pittsburgh just to spend time with us. Nothing was more important to Tony than his family.
When our Mother’s dementia progressed, and Dad’s diabetes required thrice-weekly dialysis, Tony moved from Pittsburgh to Rochester where he slept on their sofa every night for years. Tony not only became Mom & Dad’s live-in aide, driver, shopper, and medical liaison, he was also their companion. Especially for Dad after Mom passed away in late 2011. Tony was their Godsend and his selfless care comforted the minds of our entire family.
Tony was a good, decent, funny man. And a fiercely loyal person. Not only to his family and friends, but to his favorite sports teams. We were all born and partially raised in Pittsburgh, so of course we are all huge Steeler fans. Tony’s #1 team though, was the Dallas Cowboys. Talk of a dichotomy! It had to feel to Tony, like he lived in a perpetual Steelers tailgate party. Keep in mind, this was the 70‘s when the Steelers became a dynasty and their two-time opponent in the Super Bowl was the Cowboys. We would all watch the Super Bowls together, except for Tony, who would stay in his room and watch by himself. After each loss though, Tony was a good sport about it… but only after 6 weeks or more had passed.
Anderson Cooper said, after being asked about his brother’s suicide in 1988: “That’s the thing about suicide. Try as you might to remember how a person lived their life, you always end up thinking about how they ended it.”
Tony’s favorite actor was Robin Williams, who on a sad note, also committed suicide a few years before Tony. In some ways, I hypothesize, that when Robin committed suicide, it made it ‘ok’ for Tony to do the same. At least from Tony’s perspective. The reason I mention this is because all the following quotes are from Robin Williams:
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”
“A human life is just a heartbeat in heaven.”
“Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself.”
“Death is nature’s way of saying, “Your table is ready.”
I’ll bet Tony & Robin are really good friends in heaven… and most definitely making each other laugh loudly!
Although it has been years since Tony’s suicide, I frequently think of him each day. At times I catch myself smiling or laughing at a moment in time, or wiping my eyes when it once again hits me that he is no longer with us.
Sadly, no matter the thought or happy memory, it always concludes by how Tony ended it. Anderson Cooper was right!
On the flip side, I love this quote by Sir Terry Pratchett… “Do you not know that a person is not dead while their name is still spoken?”
That helps sum up the purpose of this scholarship fund. It keeps Tony ‘alive’ and not a fading memory. It celebrates his life and gives a comforting meaning to his passing. And of course it will help send students who thought that dream of going to college…was exactly that, just a dream.