March 11, 1932 – Aug. 12, 2016
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Tony was born in Dickinson, North Dakota, to Joseph and Margaret Illich, and was raised on a nearby family farm. He attended Dickinson High School where his love of music manifested itself when he was elevated to first chair, first trumpet, on the first day of freshman year class. He would later go on to play trumpet in swing bands during the big band era of the 1940s. Tony was raised with two brothers, Joe and Bill, and three sisters, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Rose.
Tony was a farmer, carpenter and a fisherman. His skills would have worked 2,000 years ago as easily as they did today. But he was a modern man, too, interested in science, technology and, of course, golf! He was a man who approached everything he undertook with his best effort and skill and almost always excelled. He never cut corners nor settled for an adequate result. He was an example to many. When he reached adulthood, he left the family farm to work for the budding airline industry in the early 1950s, first for Frontier Airlines and then Delta Airlines. Serving the public in this role was his forté. He had a smile, a quick joke and a laugh for everyone he met.
Tony was a family man. He started his family when he met and married Wilma ("Willie") Sadowsky. She met him on break during a trumpet playing gig. Willie lived north of town while Tony lived south of town, so the courtship consisted of a lot of letter writing. Eventually they married on July 9, 1952. They had a long and loving marriage that lasted 63 years before Willie passed away in May 2015. They raised two daughters, Nancy and Susan, and five sons, Dan, Russ, Jim, Fred and John. Tony and Willie are also survived by 10 grandchildren.
Tony was an adventurer, at heart. His career started in Dickinson, North Dakota, and included stops in Cody, Wyoming, and in Billings, Lewistown, Kalispell and Bozeman in the state Montana with a brief stay in Portland, Oregon. Along the way, he traveled with his family throughout the Western United States. Many of the trips included camping, hiking and fishing, all which he loved to do. Later in his life, Tony joined Willie in her love for international travel, going back to Eastern Europe where their parents and grandparents had emigrated from.
Tony's greatest legacy was that he was liked by almost everyone he met. He was a favorite uncle, a best buddy at work, a long time friend on the golf course, a treasured member within the church choir. He was a great story teller and passed that trait to all of his children.
Tony died peacefully among family in Seattle, Washington, after struggling with several illnesses. He chose to be cremated and the family will hold a private memorial celebration, interring his ashes next to those of his beloved wife, Willie.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Aug. 26, 2016