Antonio Vesuvius “Tony” Forte, 12
June 19, 2005 ~ See Ya Real Soon
” I have often dreamed of a far-off place, where a hero’s welcome will be waiting for me, where the crowds will cheer when they see my face and voice keeps saying, this is where I’m meant to be. I will find my way, I will go the distance, I’ll be there someday if I can be strong, I know every mile would be worth the while, when I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong” – Alan Menkin Disney’s Hercules
Our son and beloved brother and friend Antonio Vesuvius Forte “Tony” 12, went to be with our Lord and Savior surrounded by his family Monday, February 19, 2018 at 2:03am.
Tony passed away due to complications with his immune system that lead to respiratory failure. His transplanted organs: a stomach, small and large intestines, and pancreas were AMAZING and never gave any signs of issues or problems, the fine balance of immunosuppression medications and resulting complications are very harsh on the body.
Tony’s passing has left an enormous gap we never planned for or thought of, because no matter what the circumstances our Tony was INVINCIBLE!
From the time he was an infant being diagnosed after a 5-hour long surgery at a mere 6 days old with Total Colonic Hirschsprung’s Disease to countless surgeries for line placements and scar tissue removal to transplant surgery. Tony would come through challenges with the most AMAZING courage, strength, bravery, perseverance, determination and sheer willpower with always having a “thumbs up” attitude and smile bigger than the size of his face defying any odds… Tony certainly didn’t allow the disease or the recuperation, following his transplant surgery, to defy him. Tony defied IT and crushed IT!
The medical communities of the Penn State Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Nationwide Children’s in OH, Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando, FL, University of Southern Alabama Children’s in AL, CHOP in Philadelphia and the Holtz Children’s Hospital of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL all were and are still marveled by Tony’s fierce impact of his admissions, surgeries and recoveries. Tony changed the medical community’s way of thinking, medical books, and will forever more continue to have an impact.
The staffs, doctors, surgery teams, nurses, were not only professionals, but they and the patients became an integral part of our family, they became the fabric of our success as a family but, more importantly, along with the Lord above, made Tony a SUCCESS!Although up until the very end Tony had his determination and strength, GOD knew it was time for him to be free, ETERNALLY FREE! No more pricks and sticks, no more lengthy admissions, no more antibiotics and antifungals, no more surgeries, no more platelets or blood transfusions…enough was enough!
Tony deserved the reward of eternal rest and peace. And so, Tony is at rest! Tony came through victoriously, Tony won his VICTORY!
Tony had a loving heart for children and families like ours, and consistently focused on helping families of the transplant community of the Holtz Children's Hospital 5B and/or PICU floors. Though going through his own recuperation just 4 days after the infamous transplant surgery back in August of 2016, Tony visited each and every child, he would introduce himself and start asking questions as to why they weren’t out of bed walking around or why they weren’t taking their pills. Tony formed a gathering of patients and started a movie night on the floor with just a TV cart, Xbox, and movies we brought in as the playroom was closed. By the time his recovery was finished after surgery and Tony was ready to be discharged to the campground, those same kids that were still in their beds all had left before him and most of them are doing well!
Tony then focused on the parents and asked for a transplant support group to be started, when Tony heard that a parent had to drive her car clear to Texas because she couldn’t afford the cost. Tony asked I and another mom of transplant to get together and with the hospital staff asked for validated parking for parents on 5B. Within months we got validated parking.
When Tony asked if the playroom could have evening hours for most of the patients due to their medicines messing with their daily schedules, Tony got the kids evening hours and movie nights in the playroom. Tony wanted to transform the transplant floor, with Tony the skies were the limit. Tony wanted to discuss with the Directors of Food/Environmental and Transport grievances that parents discussed so that their needs would be met. His care for these families was off the charts. When Tony heard that a transplant mom had money stolen from her bathroom, he pronounced it in a way so that everyone heard it and made everyone aware that was not going to fly not on our floor.
When a parent was leaving with her son to a physical rehab facility 5 hrs away north of Miami, Tony asked me to give her the money that was donated to him by another transplant mom for their trip. When he read about a care package that never arrived to a transplant family Tony asked me and another transplant mom to go get items and pass not just the one bag but several to transplant families and so we provided care packages for these families with snacks and toiletries so that they the parents had something because just like us, these parents NEVER left their child’s side.
One thing he focused on more intently than anything was the campground of which he was able to stay for some of his recuperation. CB Smith Park & Campground became our temporary home, with a donated RV to one that was bought for that purpose by a generous donor. This campground gave Tony serenity/peace/motivation/freedom/friends and many “firsts” that prior to transplant he was never able to do. He wanted so much for a way to bring not only the kids but their families to this campground, he knew they would fall in love with it just like he did and wanted them to enjoy their time with their new life. Tony wanted them to forget hospital life just as he did!
Tony LOVED to tell jokes! He LOVED early American History so much that he was made an official Honorary Pvt. of the 87th PA Volunteer Infantry Re-Enactors of the Civil War at Gettysburg and would march with them, full dress in the Remembrance Day Parades. Tony loved his trips to Gettysburg and knew so much in great detail about the American Revolution/Civil War, World War II from weaponry to steam trains to battles to Generals and Presidents, there was nothing he didn’t know.
Tony LOVED talking to and honoring the military, saluting veterans and talking with them. That Tony dreamed of serving and honoring his country. Tony LOVED video games: Call of Duty, Assassin Creed Series. Our family LOVES Disney and would go so often that cast members were excited too see us. He LOVED old westerns and tv shows such as Andy Griffith/Bonanza/Gun Smoke and the Rifleman. Tony also LOVED Frasier and the Golden Girls… He LOVED Indiana Jones and the mummy movies. His musical tastes span many genres from the 40’s Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, etc. to Johnny Cash and classic Disney Songs. Tony was coined by all who knew him as “An old soul.”
He was able to have met the then, elect President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in Scranton, PA not once but twice, where President Trump prayed for Tony and signed autographs after Tony’s story. Tony and our family were invited by the President to attend his Inauguration but because of the timing with Tony recuperating, his transplant team decided it would be a big risk to his health with the crowd and the weather.
Tony LOVED going to the Annual Sportsman Show and would sit at the NRA air rifle booth hitting targets with his brother Dominic who are both good sharp shooters. Tony LOVED Halloween and Christmas, he loved making his own costumes. He LOVED Legos and Nerf Guns. Tony wanted to be an Adventurer and Treasure Hunter and he wanted to serve in the military and honor his country.Tony had a deep connection within his faith and would talk to kids and young adults about faith and why it was important to him that he would have me read him “Jesus Calling,” a daily devotional by Sarah Young everyday in the hospital.
Tony and his brothers were named honorary Grand Marshals, along with their parents, of the “Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade” at the Magic Kingdom on the 40th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom Park in 2011 Walt Disney World. Many family and friends that know of our son, Tony and our family, will know how passionate we are of our countless and priceless memories we made at Walt Disney World. The families, cast members all mean so much to us, many will know the connection of “Pinocchio” and Tony.
It was back in 2008 when Tony had another lengthy hospitalization, a Child Life Specialist came by to offer some DVD’s that were donated to the families and asked Tony to pick a few, one was “Pinocchio.” As the nurse was attending to Tony, I put the DVD in to watch, as “Pinocchio” got to the part where he starts to sing “I’ve Got No Strings,” Tony watched intently and then pointed to him saying, “Mommy, I want to be like him!” Tony also wanted to be free of his strings. The same strings that kept “Pinocchio” from being a “real boy, were the strings that kept Tony from being a “real boy” but also kept Tony alive with artificial nutrition, we kept in a backpack. When “Pinocchio” showed that he was brave, truthful and unselfish he became a “real boy”, when Tony became a “real boy” was when he received his 4-organ transplant, and then again when he crossed over in to heaven. We will forever remember “Wishes” Fireworks and the song, “When You Wish Upon a Star” as it made our wish come true!
In 2013 Tony was named as a campaign spokesperson with the Gift of Life Donor Program based in Philadelphia, as part of a state-wide campaign in Pennsylvania: “It Takes 30 Sec” in all of the DMV’s, Tony and his mother spoke at many churches, high schools, middle schools teaching the importance of Organ Donation. We even gave testimony at our State Capital pushing our legislatures to enact the bill, “Donate Life Act.” Tony was a miracle child with the Children’s Miracle Network, where he would participate in the local annual radio and telethons and as wish child with Make A Wish where he rode with several truck drivers in the annual Mother’s Day Convoy along with attending events to encourage donors and guests because of his story and countless other children’s support.
To the many friends and family that we love so very much! Our hearts have been shattered by the loss of such an AMAZING spirit, boy and son. It will take time for us as a family to heal. However, for the little bit of almost 13 years that GOD granted us to have him, we are comforted to know he was greeted by so many before him who welcomed him into the Kingdom of Heaven where he awaits our homecoming.
We are blessed that GOD granted days to us, where we, as a family, NEVER took them for granted, that we were able to create countless and priceless memories so that in times such as this, we have those memories to heal us and look back on so that Tony will live on in our hearts forever. We might be physically separated but our spirits and souls are bonded forever. My sons Tony and Dominic stated when they were very young, “Mom, we are like squirrels. Instead of nuts, we collect memories,” and boy did we ever!
We love you all and THANK YOU for all your thoughts, support, prayers, compassion and love throughout the years!Because of the expectation by so many from the community who were touched by our son and his powerful journey the Clipper Stadium 650 N. Prince St. Lancaster, Pa 17601 will be hosting our son Tony’s “Heroes Welcome”.
A public viewing will be held on the concourse beginning Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 9AM until 1PM, a Memorial Service will follow on the field from 1PM until 3PM. Private interment for family will follow.
The day will be a colorful day for a colorful boy filled with songs that captured Tony in music, video and pictures, fellowship with our community and loved ones coming from miles away to be with Tony and our family who are compelled to share their memories with all who love them. We ask that no color black be worn and no suits. Tony LOVED vibrant colors and vibrant colors he should have, he didn’t like suits so the day will be casual, but please dress warm. Tony will have a HEROES WELCOME coming home for he was a hero to so many and as mom blessed to have had him from womb to heaven, a hero to me!
Though his fire might be extinguished, our fire for him will forever be ignited in the causes that touched us so! We as his family have lots of work to do, Whose Ready?
Tony is preceded in death by two older brothers each miscarried, two grandfathers, Maternal Grandfather Rance E. Walker and Paternal Grandfather Michael D. Forte. Tony is survived by his parents, Stephen T. and Monica A. Forte, both of Lancaster, PA; 2 brothers Vincent T. Forte and Dominic M. Forte, both at home.
His maternal grandmother, Monica M. Walker, of Lancaster and paternal grandmother, Jeanette W. Forte, of East Petersburg; his aunts and uncles: Shelly Walker Kise (Joshua), of Ephrata, Margaret Walker, of Lancaster, Melissa Gilmartin (Brian), of Brick, NJ, Patricia Walker Jacobs, of Point Pleasant, NJ, Cindy Walker Norkus of Point Pleasant, NJ, Sheryl Forte, of Tucson, AZ, Michael B. Forte (Desiree), of Lancaster, Paul G. Forte, of East Petersburg, and Phillip E. Forte, of Falmouth, MA; and numerous cousins.
In lieu of flowers please send memorial contributions in Tony’s memory may be sent to the “Antonio Forte Transplant Fund Trust,” 2131 Fruitville Pike, Lancaster, PA 17603 or online at www.aftft.com.
Funds will be used to honor Tony’s wishes to create “Tony’s My Adventure Campground” for pediatric transplant families that need to stay near the hospital for their recuperation. We will also have a campground for the general public where snowbirds and those who love camping may camp with their motor coaches and RV motorhomes, to help offset the costs so that NO parent will ever have to pay to stay while caring for their child.
This campground will feature a Community Hall filled with arcade games, air hockey, physical therapy equipment for the children, indoor movie theatre, an outdoor physical therapy pool, a designed playground so that children with disabilities can relax and enjoy life, pet therapy and music therapy, plus much more.
We are wishing on a star and looking forward to bringing Tony’s vision to a reality! Anyone willing to help or who have GOD given talents to donate, we need ALL of you!
Lovingly the Forte Family!