Friends and family remember Tony Etnyre as a caring man, more willing to help others than let others help him.
So, on his 70th birthday, when his wife, Sandy, and their six children set up a surprise party, he was moved to tears.
“I’ve never seen my husband so shook up or overwhelmed because what someone had done for him,” Sandy Etnyre said. “Because he always wanted to do things for someone else.”
In honor of Tony Etnyre, who died of kidney cancer on June 12, 2011, his family has organized the Tony Etnyre Memorial 5K Walk/Run for Sept. 8 in Columbus. All proceeds will benefit kidney cancer research.
“They’ve got to find something that can stop this disease,” Sandy Etnyre said. “It’s just one of those silent cancers that aren’t really discovered until it’s too late.”
The benefit will begin and end at Columbus Municipal Airport. It starts at 8:30 a.m.
Tony Etnyre was a local hotel businessman and aviation fanatic. He enjoyed playing golf and spending time with his wife, three sons, three daughters and 18 grandchildren.
“He had a great sense of humor,” Sandy Etnyre said. “He was very honest. He loved his family.
“He was such a great, great husband, father and grandfather.”
He also was a great friend, said local accountant Steve Mahoney, who was a golfing buddy of Tony Etnyre’s for about 20 years.
“If I were to pick out one quality of him that I kind of drew from him, he was just a patient person,” Mahoney said. “Most of the time, he was calm and cool.”
Through good times and bad, too.
At age 8, Etnyre was diagnosed with polio. He beat the disease with the help of an iron lung and grew into a successful athlete, a basketball standout in high school and a high-jumper/long-jumper at Furman University.
“Tony was 15 years older than me, and he was somebody I would never have guessed to die so young,” Mahoney said. “Even at 72, he was in better shape than me.”
In November 2010, doctors removed a small tumor in Etnyre’s left kidney. It was cancerous, but they believed it hadn’t spread until they discovered three lesions on his brain.
“That was the beginning,” Sandy Etnyre said. “The kidney cancer had metastasized. He was never really in much pain. ... The Memorial Day weekend before he died he was still able to eat and stay up in the living room.”
Sandy and Tony Etnyre would have celebrated their 50th anniversary on Sept. 9, 2011.
“We just missed it,” Sandy Etnyre said.
By organizing a fundraiser in her husband’s memory, Sandy Etnyre hopes fewer families don’t miss out.
“I’ve particularly learned that you don’t put anything off,” Sandy Etnyre said. “With Tony, we had so many things that we’d planned on doing. ... You just don’t know.”
If you go
WHAT: Tony Etnyre 5K Walk/Run
WHERE: Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Blvd.
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Sept. 8.
WHY: To celebrate Tony Etnyre’s life and raise money for cancer research.
COST: $25 per adult and $15 for children 12 and under. Participants receive a T-shirt and gift bag. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
REGISTRATION: Pre-register by Aug. 24 or sign up at the event.
INFORMATION: tonyetnyre 5k.com.