Anthony G. "Tony" Estrella
of Billerica; 78
BILLERICA -- Anthony G. "Tony" Estrella, age 78, a resident of Billerica for 60 years, passed Monday, December 9, 2013, quietly at home cared for by family and friends.
Anthony was born on January 7, 1935, in San Miguel Azores, the beloved son of the late Anthony Estrella, and the late Mary (Vieira Garcia) Estrella.
A native of the Azores, Anthony Estrella came to this country at the age of thirteen. Although he has always shown artistic talent, he never thought that this would become his profession. A fall from a tree at the age of fifteen left him a quadriplegic. Since life has a way of sculpturing itself, Mr. Estrella found himself honing his artistic talents until it became a part of him. Portraitures were his specialty and the life force that he brought to a painting was amazing to see. To capture someone's face and place it on canvas is a feat but Mr. Estrella goes a step further as he seems to capture a person's spirit. The eyes especially follow you, and in a semi dark room you would swear that the person in his painting is alive and ready to speak.
Not willing to get stuck in a rut, Mr. Estrella also created beautiful landscapes, seascapes, and still life paintings. Many of these works are of real places, but many others are a creation of his imagination. Tony takes bits and pieces of his travels and places them together to form a new location created by the images in his mind. His seascapes especially bear pieces of his childhood in the Azores. The faces of the fisherman going about their daily work show their love of the sea or the toll the sea takes from them. The detail is perfect down to the tiny knots in the fishing nets.
Mr. Estrella worked mainly in oils, but his talent also extended to other mediums. He was an accomplished sculpture, carver and collector. Photography helped him in his art as he would take picture after picture of a piece of his intended work, a rigging on a sail for example. He then uses the picture to make sure the rigging is technically correct when he goes to paint the sail.
Although Tony spent many hours on his own work, he found that teaching art was very fulfilling. He enjoyed his role as teacher stating that "you meet all types of people, and you feel good when they turn out something they are proud of." Over the years he had many, many students. Some of them were strictly hobbyists, taking lessons for the night out or the camaraderie of the classroom while others have taken their talents and exhibited or sold their works. Tony said it gave him great pleasure when he would travel the summer circuit in Maine or Rockport, Massachusetts and see work exhibited by a former student. "It's like seeing your child accomplish a goal".
Over the years Mr. Estrella exhibited in many venues. He won many awards and accolades for his work and several of his pieces hang in prominent locations. It is however still the love of his art that gives him excitement. Parting with his work is sometimes difficult especially if it is a piece that holds memories. One of his older works labeled "Town Drunk" has been sold twice and twice Tony bought it back. "It is a portrait of a real person in the Azores. A kind, lovable man who somehow let alcohol take over his life, but when you talked to him you heard the wisdom of the world and in his eyes you saw the joy and pain of life. Somehow I just can't let this painting go. It still hangs in my home and when I look at it, it humbles me."
Sadly, the light has dimmed on Tony's talent as he quietly passed away at the age of 78, on Monday, December 9, 2013.
Anthony is survived by a sister Theresa (Teri) LaBella and her husband John F. Doherty of Wilmington, a brother John G. Estrella and his wife Diane of Billerica, a sister Rosalie (Rose) Fitch and her husband John of Wilmington. He also leaves a niece, Stacy LaBella and her daughter Cecilia Taucher of Billerica and three nephews Jacob Fitch, Joshua Fitch and Justin Fitch of Wilmington.
ESTRELLA -- Family and friends will gather for Mr. Estrella's funeral at the Nichols Funeral Home, Inc., 187 Middlesex Ave. (Rte. 62), Wilmington, on Saturday, December 14th at 9:00 a.m. followed by a Funeral Mass in St. Thomas of Villanova Church, 126 Middlesex Ave., Wilmington at 10:00 a.m. Burial will follow in Wildwood Cemetery, Wilmington. Visiting hours will be held at the Funeral Home on Friday, December 13th from 3-7 p.m. Donations to Anthony's memory made be made to Wilmington Rotary Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 503, Wilmington, MA.
Published in Lowell Sun on Dec. 11, 2013