Pastor Tony Romeo: Celebrating a Life
By Anthony Romeo; foreword by Debbonnaire Kovacs, 4-13-2017 This is a different kind of feature—a bittersweet one. Pastor Anthony Romeo is a one-of-a-kind Christian who takes the Sermon on the Mount (and all the rest of Jesus’ words) seriously. When Jesus said to love everybody, Tony assumed he meant everybody. At his church in Manhattan, you are welcome. You. Yes, absolutely. No matter what. Tony has faced some flack for this…but so have you. So come on in. Relax. You are loved.
These pages have featured stories about Tony before. I was going to link to a couple, but a search for “Romeo” turns up way too many to link to. Some are various announcements concerning his Concerts for Peace, which feature world-class musicians and were created specifically to increase awareness that we are all one blood. A more recent one concerns his work with the immigrants, now more frightened than they already were. Do the search. You will be glad you did. However, the main feature that tells his story as a pastor in New York, published in 2012, seems to no longer be in our archives. So I am reposting it here.
Tony has received painful news. Characteristically, he faced it with grace he would tell you comes straight from God. He wrote a touchingly beautiful essay from the heart. Those of you who follow him on Facebook may have seen it already. With his permission, we print it in full here. We are all also reminding Tony that God has the last word, not doctors, and we hope to read essays like this for years to come! This is NOT a farewell!
Note: the title “Looking at the World through a Glass Eye” is from a series of essays Tony has been doing. He has a glass eye, and posits that perhaps that’s why he can see the world with a truer single vision than ordinary humans. You can look up many of these on Tony’s Facebook page. DLK
Looking At The World through A Glass Eye: “That’s all folks…”
By Tony Romeo
I have had a remarkable life. Truly remarkable. I still remember the day I told my Italian immigrant father that I wanted to go into art and to art school to become an advertising art director.
My father a gifted cabinet maker and carpenter really didn’t understand why his son would want to become an artist.
Two days after hearing the news that I was accepted to attend the High School of Art & Design, all the way in Manhattan, he shyly asked me over a simple meal, on our bright yellow kitchen table, in his ever present broken English accent; “Letta me-a ask-a you-a question. Are you-a, a homosexy?”
Well that was the beginning of a long love affair with art, advertising and a remarkably wonderful time learning at the feet of some of the biggest names in advertising at The School of Visual Arts.
I was lucky enough to get my first job right out of that school on 23rd Street, Uptown on West 42nd Street at Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising.
My good friend Dom Marino was the angel that introduced me and took my portfolio around the agency, and boom… The next thing I knew, I was on the eighth floor working alongside Helmet Krone, Roy Grace, Bob Levinson, Marvin Honig and Bob Gage, to name just a few of the legends I had spent years reading about while reading through the Art Directors Annuals, while seated on the IRT train, and nights on the toilet bowl in the Bronx.
Yes. The toilet bowl. It was the quietest place in the house!
So many great creative people shared their remarkable talents with me including a young art director, Bill Yamada, who to this day had the nervous and enthusiastic energy to light up an office with his talent and laser-like focus.
I stayed at great hotel; my favorite was Shutters-On-The-Beach in Santa Monica, CA. Great trips to Paris while working on Michelin Tires. Months in London shooting one commercial and a remarkable spot with cartoon characters for eight weeks. What a wonderful scam! And the food! Too good to be true.
Enjoyed doing stand-up and conversations in the Green Room at Gotham Comedy Club, NYC with the likes of Jim Gaffigan. What a class act. There is nothing more pleasurable than making people laugh. And doing it without relying on an “F” Bomb.
I spent a few years studying pastoral counseling and care, and came to the conclusion that God loves all of us, even the people “religious types” have found a way to hate. Go figure.
Being raised in an Italian and Jewish neighborhood and attending elementary school with young children from a vast array of ethnic groups solidified my upbringing to accept as friends and equals people who looked different from me.
I carried my eggplant sandwich to school in a brown paper bag with the classic oil stain that seeped through the bag telling everyone “look…Anthony has a leaking sandwich.”
Friends ate matzoh around this time of year at P.S. 105 in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx.
On Jewish holidays I spent the day with a cute brown-skinned friend cleaning the chalk boards. She was really cute. I was in love at eight.
It was a great mix of ethnic kids at that school, and to this day I can still sing “O Hanukkah” as I learned it in December of 1958 for the Holiday Concert.
It’s been a great life.
My wife, Marlene and I raised two wonderful and talented children, Jennifer and AJ. Earlier this evening we celebrated the news I am about to share with Allison, AJ’s wife and our two grandchildren, Chase and Hunter, who are the most active sports enthusiasts ever to have the name “Romeo.”
The ice cream was delicious.
So here it comes.
Today it was confirmed that I have “Non-small cell lung cancer adenocarcinoma.”
“Adenocarcinoma?” Sounds like a hard-to-digest entree from a bad Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side.
Did I eat too many hot dogs at Yankee Stadium? Was it the commercial I shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles fifteen years ago for Luden’s Cough Drops, when the director insisted he wanted fake snow and real vapor coming out of the actors’ mouths as they spoke the lines?
Evidently it makes no difference that I never smoked a cigarette or took a drink of beer or liquor in my life. Not even a cup of coffee.
But I did have and enjoyed a lot of bagels. Thank God for that. Oh, and a lot of Knishes with mustard. If you’re not from New York City you just won’t understand.
I am told that I have about six months to one year to live.
Katz Delicatessen, here I come.
Thanks to each of you who have made my life worth living. It’s been fun. Still time to enjoy.
“That’s all folks.”