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Tribute | Tony Manzella adored his family

Who:

Anthony Manzella, 74, of Kansas City.

When and how he died:

May 10 at the Kansas City Hospice House after being diagnosed with cancer in April.

Provider:

When Tony Manzella spoke of his wife, she wasn’t Theresa — she was “Precious.” The couple, who met at a dance, celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on April 4.

“He absolutely adored my mother,” said daughter Diana Walz. “He wanted her to be able to stay home with us kids, so he’d come home from work, eat dinner and then go back out and do more work.”

For more than 40 years, Tony worked as an electrical contractor as a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 124.

“If you asked him to fix anything, well, it was bing, bang, boom, and it was done,” Diana said.

In the 1990s, with family Italian recipes, Tony and his wife opened Tony’s Delicatessen in south Kansas City.

“Dad was the communicator and Mom was the boss,” son Frank Manzella said.

While the deli was open about five years, many of the acquaintances Tony met there turned into longtime friends.

Tony was an active member of his church. He and his wife regularly volunteered as ushers during the Saturday evening Mass at St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City. In his role, Tony helped the priest and always looked after fellow churchgoers.

“Dad would take care of whatever needed to be taken care of,” Frank said.

Tony made sure that everyone received Holy Communion and that people who needed it had help getting to their cars after the service.

“My mom and I still have strangers coming up to us at church to talk about my dad,” Diana said. “Everybody knew him.”

Road buddies:

Many of the early days of Diana’s childhood were spent in the car with her father as he drove to different jobs.

“My memories are of being my dad’s road buddy,” she said.

After he was diagnosed with cancer, the roles were reversed. When Tony came home from the hospital in April, Diana took him to see the members of his bowling league. At the bowling alley, people swarmed around him, some crying, she said.

“And I said to him, ‘Daddy, this was so cool. You took me as a baby, and now I get to take you.’ ”

A special bond:

Tony and his wife regularly watched their grandchildren — Franchesca, Lucas and Tyler. The free time Tony had in retirement gave him time to build and nurture relationships with his grandchildren. Tony took them bowling and to movies.

Diana, the children’s aunt, said they were the second loves of Tony’s life, and the adoration was mutual — all the children had special bonds with their “Popo.” Franchesca often rode in the car with him, and Lucas, a cuddler, curled up next to him through some of his final days, said their father, Frank.

Whenever 3-year-old Tyler went to his grandparents’ house, he went immediately to his grandfather.

“They were two peas in a pod,” Frank said.

Sometimes while ushering at St. Thomas More, Tony carried his grandchildren around with him.

“He had to introduce his grandkids to everybody,” Frank said. “Trust me, there was a big, huge smile on his face when he was doing it.”

Survivors include:

His wife, two sons, a daughter, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and three grandchildren.

Final thoughts:

“Everybody knew Tony, and if you didn’t know him, you knew him before you left the room,” Diana said. “That was the thing about our dad. He was Mr. Personality.”

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