Reality Bites by James A. Norton Remembering Antonio (Tony) M. Ferrell


You never know when it’s going to be your time, so you should live your life appropriately…


When my wife Lynda and I were putting our wedding together back in late 2013, the date, the venue, the theme – these were all things we were having a tough time deciding on. There was one thing that was for sure – my good friend Tony Ferrelli would be the person we would ask to officiate/marry us. Tony was one of my oldest friends and for me there was no other choice. Lynda hadn’t met him at that point, but, I told her she was in for a treat, because I as far as I was concerned, he was one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever known in my life.


I sent Tony a message through Facebook, which is nothing out of the ordinary for us over the last few years. It took him a few hours to get back to me, but when I asked him, it was obvious that he was thrilled and said he would be honored. Funny, I hadn’t really noticed until then (or maybe I just always put it out of my mind), but, my oldest friends call me “Jim” today. It’s a departure from the usual “Jamie” or “James” and Tony always either called me Mr. Norton around others or just Jim if we were by ourselves.


So with the preliminary asking out of the way, we went over to Tony and Tricia’s house some time after that and sat down to go over the details. We had, by that time, decided on a theme and roughly what we wanted to do format wise and now it was time to get the important part locked down. I was actually thrilled to see how visibly excited he was to be officiating our wedding. It was a testament to how he lived his life – happy, full of life, absolutely thrilled to be talking about his family and genuinely interested in his friends and how their lives were progressing. You couldn’t help but be in a good mood around him and it was always like that even back when we were in school together.


Speaking of that – he had a deft ability to communicate that I rarely came across. We were very similar in this way. He would fire off memories of things we both had in common all the way back to kindergarten at the Forster School, then pepper me with a few lighter moments we shared over the years since, then would transition into how my kids and grandkids were and how life was treating me. He was a delight to talk to, even just beeping and waving driving down Broadway or running into each at the 350.


Getting back to the wedding, the day came, and he was perfect in the role he played. To not only have him officiate, but to have him and Tricia share that day with us and a very small group of family and close friends was a treat for me and Lynda. Aside from our each of our kids being born, that day is easily the most important day in mine and Lynda’s lives and we were so thankful Tony married us.


Flash forward just shy of two years to December 2015 and I get a message from Tony with a link telling me to sign in and see what’s going on with him. So I did, and I was stunned to read that he was sick and it was cancer and he was going to be in for the fight of his life. It seemed like a very bad joke – there was no way this dear friend of mine had cancer and no way he was going to have to go through this. I think I either called him or texted him (instead of Facebook messaging), to see what I could do for him and his family. He made me promise not to tell anyone except Lynda, because he didn’t want anyone to fuss over him. I knew it was for real, because that was exactly how he is – very humble, very private and not wanting to cause anyone any stress.


So I kept in touch aside from reading the blog about his progress, not wanting to believe that anything other than complete destruction of the “terrorist cells” (as he called them) would happen – noticing that he had complications, but nothing Tony couldn’t beat – and he made progress after a tough time in and out of the hospital. That was short lived progress, as the last update I read was on April 11th from Tricia, and Tony was gone a mere 15 hours later.


I was devastated when I heard – my wife knew something was horribly wrong when she saw me only a minute after I heard. I hadn’t cried like that in a long time. It’s not fair that the nicest person I’ve ever known, one of my oldest friends, has left this mortal coil – it’s not fair to his wonderful wife Tricia and truly awesome daughter Jessica that Tony was taken from them – it’s not fair that this world is less one fantastic human being. Tony – you were always a class act, a truly humble and gracious man amongst men – and you will truly be missed by everyone you ever met.


Antonio M. Ferrell passed on April 12th at MGH at the young age of 48. He was born and raised and lived his entire life in Somerville. Tony graduated with me and many of our friends from Somerville High in 1986. He leaves behind his beloved wife Patricia and loving daughter Jessica. He leaves behind his loving sister Francesca Evans and her husband Rex, along with a number of nieces, nephews and two great-nieces. Tony leaves behind scores of friends and people he touched with his gentle, affable, humble and genuinely beautiful soul.


Tony Ferrelli is to be laid to rest on April 19th – but he the memory of him will never fade. I can honestly say that I am a better person for having known him, and to have called him friend. Goodbye my dear friend, until we meet again at that wrestling match in the sky.


3 thoughts on “Reality Bites by James A. Norton Remembering Antonio (Tony) M. Ferrell”

  1. James,
    Touching and beautiful words that speak of the depth of your love and friendship. You honor Tony in sharing this with the rest of us. I only remember Tony as a kid and classmate. With this article, you brought a piece of the man he would become to those of us who left Somerville all those years ago.
    May Tony rest in peace. My condolences to his wife, daughter, family and many friends like you.

  2. I am absolutely shocked and so so sad to hear of the passing of Tony. After my husband, Lt. John Jones, passed away from cancer in Jun 2005 tony was one of the most caring, kind, helpful people I had ever met. Losing my husband after 32 yrs of marriage was devastating to me and my children. I was in a fog for the longest time as to what I had, what I should do, how do I protect and provide for my children. Tony made it so much easier for me. I could pick up the phone and call him anytime of the day with the most mundane question or worry and Tony always had the patience and kindness to help me understand whatever the situation was. No matter how many times I asked the same questions over and over because I couldn’t retain much under the burden of my devastating grief, Tony would answer and not lose patience with me. I will truly miss this kind soul at the end of the phone line who took the time to help me. If there is anything I can do to help his family, his wife, or children I certainly will do. Rest in Peace kind Sir, taken way too soon but never forgotten.

  3. What a beautiful tribute Jamie. Tony and his family were our “back neighbors” – my family on Marshall Street and his on Oakland. Even summer they had an amazing garden and we often talked through the fence 🙂 My Mom ran into him at the Somerville Credit Union and they always shared nice memories and invitations to dinner which, unfortunately never happened. Our thought and prayers go out to him and his family and of course to all of his friends.

    the Hart family (Sandy, Kelli, Val, Bill and of course our late Mom Joanne

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