New Bedford Takes a Tumble With Loss of ‘Tonka Toi’ [PHIL-OSOPHY]
In the featured image above, you're looking at a few of the invisible photos of Antone "Tonka Toi" Fortes, seen beaming with approval to the group of talented gymnasts, performing at the Toys for Tots Telethon, at the warming house at Buttonwood Park. The big smile you see Toi sporting was one of his hallmarks. He was an agent of so much good, and proud of his Cape Verdean community.
I still haven't accepted that Toi just passed away. I can hear his voice saying he owed so much to his "life coach" and mentor, Manuel E. Costa, Sr.
In this close-up, you see Toi coaching his Tonka's Tumblers & Gymnasts, kids from the New Bedford Public Schools, some of whom have no experience in tumbling or gymnastics. Throughout his 50-something years as a coach, he knew how important it was to teach the kids about more than just gymnastics, and that was another of his hallmarks. He was mentored by a great advisor and friend, and Toi wanted to return the favor by doing the same for others. Not one child was ever turned away. Ask the kids at the local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club about Coach Toi and you'll get raves and acclaim.
I wanted to share one last photo of Toi, but let me explain why I can't. The last time I saw Toi was a few months ago near the Staples in Dartmouth. We schmoozed about this and that, and just before we said goodbye, I snapped a selfie of us. Regrettably, the photo only caught the upper part of his right ear. I can hear his warm and authentic laughter going off in my mind, and I can feel the emotions as my heart distresses.
May Toi's memory be eternal.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.