They don’t make them like Tony Antonias anymore.
The man with the power, expertise and enthusiasm to put New Westminster events on the map died earlier this week at the age of 89. He died from that ailment that lurks darkly in all of our futures - old age.
Tony was a force to be reckoned with. He loved music (especially Wagner), theatre, art - anything to do with culture. And he insinuated himself on just about every event in the city. He took on projects like a one-man promotional nuclear bomb. Literally - stand back.
Since he was a teenager, the Australian lived and breathed ads night and day. When he moved to Canada, Tony was hired by CKNW, which was then located on Columbia Street - the most happening street in the Lower Mainland. (The ‘NW’ stands for New Westminster). Tony wrote ads and was such a sensation that within a year he was appointed copy chief.
The ace ad writer and producer was sought out by top companies across Canada wanting his catchy jingles. Tony won numerous awards and is most famous for his Woodward’s $1.49 Day jingle that ran for 37 years. (And who doesn’t remember the promotional slogan “My Daughter the President”?)
Being the top gun in charge of ads at CKNW, Tony had the luxury of promoting whatever event he wanted - for free. What other city could boast an award-winning legend of a promoter who also loved the arts and controlled the free ad space on the province’s most listened-to radio station?
Tony delighted in asking his big-time clients to help with promotions. Eaton’s, The Bay, Bosa Development Corp and Segal Furniture were just a few of his clients who gladly donated to New Westminster events.
One call to a client garnered thousands of free Dare Maple Leaf cookies year after year for the Canada Day celebrations in Queen’s Park. Another call had the Vancouver Symphony performing for free twice for a Seniors’ Bureau fundraiser.
The Citizen of the Year loved his city. He fairly quivered with delight to help. But one warning -- you never stood in his way. Tony was the first to say either you were on his side or you’d better run.
All good things come to an end. Tony retired from CKNW in 1995 but was still writing ads for the Vancouver Symphony until a few years ago and for Cartwright Jewelers until last year. He also continued his feverish promotion of local events. But life eventually catches up with us all. Tony died in Royal Columbian Hospital 13 days after his birthday. He had lived a good life. And the Royal City’s many organizations have a huge thank you for his 60 years of enthusiastic service.
Lori Pappajohn is a former reporter for the New Westminster Record.