When you go through life, they say you’re lucky to have even a few good friends.
Friends who understand you.
Friends who share your dreams.
Friends who you can remember tears streaming down your face because of something funny said or something sad that has happened.
I’ve been fortunate in my 63 years on this planet to have a lot of good friends. I have work friends, church friends, ministry friends, sports friends, all kinds of friends.
But 19 years ago on Jan. 17, one of my best friends ever left this world far too early.
I say that because Tony Curnutte was not only my friend. He was a friend to many others, too.
His death, so sudden and so unexpected, caught us all off guard.
It sent shockwaves through the newsroom at The Daily Independent, where Tony worked as a copy editor at the time of his death.
It sent shockwaves through the religious community, because Tony preached and also took care of the Baptist Student Union at the community college.
It sent shockwaves through the entire community, because he was a beloved and memorable character.
Tony worked on the copy desk for two years but he’s better remembered for his time as a sportswriter, not to mention his quick wit and his rare ability to make you laugh until your sides split.
Jupe Holleran, the alter-ego he transformed to on prank phone calls, literally had us crawling under our desks.
Tony was a performer and he knew how to bring the house down.
He also knew Real Life, a life centered around a deep love of God and his adoring family, wife Karen and daughter Lauren who he loved to the moon and back, as they like to say these days. Tony always felt like he “married up” with Karen, who definitely knew she had a catch, too.
They were great together. Just great.
Tony was a Baptist minister and led the Baptist Student Union at ACTC for years, growing it from only a few people to a standing-room-only crowd nearly every week. Everybody loved Tony.
So when he died on that January day in 2002, a part of us all died with him.
No matter what I put my hands on, Tony was supportive of it. He looked up to me. We had so much fun together and we had our serious moments, too. I knew him as someone who was a praying person and you can’t have too many friends like that. That was one of the traits that came from his parents, Watt and Connie, who made sure Tony and his sister were grounded in the faith.
We sang in church choirs together, played Strat-O-Matic baseball together, and he was essentially indoctrinated into part of “My Gang” who hung out in my basement. They were friends who gave nobody a free pass.
They called him Nute and that “life experience” with some of my crazy friends, along with his real-life job as a sportswriter for the newspaper, transformed this shy young boy who was afraid of his shadow into a powerful personality who became a missionary in his own hometown area.
And then he was gone. Taken far too soon.
Tony would be proud of how Karen has carried on and how his beautiful daughter has blossomed into such a lovely young lady. He would want your both to be happy in life and not grieve for him.
He would also be proud that Jupe Holleran’s name is still uttered with his own.
Tony loved to get a laugh and he wouldn’t want us crying over his departure from this place.
If you ever knew him, you’d know that to be true.
But you will be forever missed TC.