Layng, Anthony Tobin
Winston-Salem, NC: Anthony (Tony) Layng, a Winston-Salem tennis enthusiast and an emeritus professor of anthropology, died on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (He would want it pointed out that he has neither "gone" somewhere nor "passed over" anything.) He was born in 1932 in New Jersey to Grant and Virginia Leonard Layng. A life-long religious skeptic, he graduated from Solebury Prep School, completed undergraduate work at Rollins College and Columbia University, and received an M.A. from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Case Western Reserve. He was awarded a Purple Heart as a U.S. Marine in the Korean War. He was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi for four years and was a leader for Operation Crossroads Africa in Lesotho.
The National Institute of Mental Health supported his ethnographic research on the Carib Reserve in Dominica in the Caribbean, and he worked under John Hope Franklin as a Danforth Foundation Fellow in Black Studies at the University of Chicago. He taught at Washington, Tougaloo, Rollins, and Oberlin colleges in addition to 20 years at Elmira College in New York, from which he retired in 1997. It was then that he, with his beloved wife Donna, settled in Winston-Salem and taught as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest. Donna Layng is a well-known artist in the area and was Tony's favorite doubles tennis partner.
Tony was active locally as a Shepherd's Center Board member and volunteer, and he regularly taught in their Adventures in Learning Program. He also served on the Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission, the Board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Chateau Ridge Homeowners Association Board as its president. He was a member of the Wake Forest Tennis Center and an active participant in USTA league play.
He is the author of a University Press of America book on the Carib Indians of Dominica and numerous journal and magazine articles on the nature of religion, women, black Americans, American Indians, human sexuality, and evolution. He devoted his professional career to promoting critical thinking and challenging biblical literalism. His students were consistently encouraged to develop a cross-cultural perspective on customary human behavior and to recognize as well as see beyond their own cultural biases.
Tony enjoyed traveling with his wife, Donna Crossed Layng. They visited numerous Indian reservations in the Southwest, the major cities of Australia, and most of the towns in northern Sicily. They also spent time in Hawaii, Israel, and the Caribbean. His daughter, Kristin Szakos, is a writer and member of the Charlottesville, Virginia, City Council, and her husband Joe is Director of the statewide group Virginia Organizing. They have two daughters, Anna and Maria. Tony's stepdaughter, Maria Greer, is a child protective social worker supervisor in High Point. His granddaughter Celena Greer is a rising freshman at Reynolds High School in Winton-Salem. His stepsons Ben Bodewes, a technical support analyst at Frontier Communications and Andy Bodewes, Vice President of Conifer Realty, their wives Kim (Sullivan) and Tina (Tokarski), and his four other grandchildren, Jarred, Jennifer, Sarah, and Jessica, live in Rochester, NY. He is also survived by his older brother and sister-in-law, Geoffrey and Madi Layng of San Clemente, California, and by a surrogate daughter, Helena Cargill, and her family in Nassau, Bahamas.
The family asks that donations in Tony's memory be made to the Shepherd's Center of Greater Winston-Salem (1700 Ebert St., Winston-Salem, NC 27103) or to the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home (101 Hospice Lane, Winston-Salem, NC 27103).
Published in Star-Gazette on Jun. 14, 2011.