Tony, a long time member of the Sweetwater Branch Community,
died yesterday morning at Shands Hospital, after suffering a stroke earlier
this month. He was in his forties and worked as a house painter. Tony was
also a singer-songwriter. Despite the personal demons that resulted in
chronic homelessness for Tony, he was an incredibly hard worker, right up
to the very onset of his final illness, and he never lost touch with his music. Tony
and his partner Dusty had one of the nicer camps at Sweetwater. They
had a large tent with a double bed, a coffee table, and a television hooked
up to a car battery. Outside Tony had created a patio area, under a tarp,
with shelves fastened to a tree, where they kept food, a clothesline, and
outside the patio, a fire pit for cooking. They had several cats. The last
few months of Tony's life they moved into a house trailer with friends.
A year ago I visited Tony and Dusty at their camp and Tony asked me if
he could audition to play music for the Home Van's third birthday party, which
was to take place at the Downtown Plaza. He brought a battered guitar out of
their tent and sang a song he had written himself, called "Hard Times," about
a family living in poverty. It was a beautiful song, in the tradition of Waylon
Jennings and Willie Nelson. Tony's scratchy, soulful voice did the song justice.
The day of our party, Tony brought his band with him, The Sweetwater Branch Boys,
made up mainly of homeless musicians. They played on stage and they
were good! It was a wonderful party.