Anthony Winner, who died on September 16, 2021, once wrote a memoir interrogating the thorny question of verisimilitude, but he would probably not dispute a few central facts: He was conceived in Rome but not in John Keats' house near the Spanish Steps. His father, Percy, an American reporter, left his pregnant mother Faie, an artist and designer, before Tony was born. Faie brought Tony back to New York where she was doing window displays for Macy's when she married Bill Joyce, the owner of a shoe factory in Pasadena.
A third wheel in his mother's second marriage, he was sent away to boarding school from sixth grade on, the first a quirky school called Trailfinders where he and his classmates were taught to camp and hike and tend to rattle snakes; the second a progressive "open-air" school filled with the children of Hollywood.
Tony went to university back east and eventually met my mother, Viola Hopkins Winner, a colleague at Hunter College in New York. Quickly and accidentally, she got pregnant with me, and they married on Ground Hogs Day, 1964. After they were both hired by the English Department of the University of Virginia, he was handed tenure with almost no publications while she was denied it despite having published a celebrated book about Henry James.
But he was a serious scholar whose academic work explored characterization in Balzac, Zola and Chekhov and irony in Conrad. Tony also published several surreal, supremely strange short stories. Most important to him was his teaching. A former female student recently recalled that, "Tony was, hands down, the most gifted teacher I had…the first male professor of his generation to take me seriously intellectually."
A "violent atheist," Tony was averse to anything maudlin and sentimental, but an unearthly tranquility descended upon him when he learned he was dying about sixteen hours before he actually died. Tony, David – his son – and his daughter-in-law – Angela – held hands as Tony told them how satisfied he was with his life and how lucky the three of them were, supremely lucky, to have each other, his last act of parenting.
The last time they saw him, only hours before he died, he was staying in a pleasant and efficient hospice facility, the opposite of the chaotic rehab center.
He liked the hospice, he told them, but felt that it "somehow lacked edge, like a Swiss Department store for death." It was a remark typical of Tony: wry humor wrought from fearless observation.
A private ceremony for him will be held this next spring. Tony constantly wondered at the care he was receiving in his last days, so much better than many others across the country and the world. He gave to Doctors Without Borders
and would have appreciated any contributions to them.
Published by Daily Progress on Sep. 30, 2021.