My name is Doug Roede. I had the great privilege of calling Tony a friend, I was blessed to call him a brother in Christ, and I am honored to share a few words with you this morning.
Tony left an incredible impact on us, as you can see by all of the love in this room. I learned so much from him. Tony taught me that it’s okay to cry – the good tears. You see, Tony knew that when you dive into the ocean of God’s amazing grace, your face will get wet. I always looked up to him for that – I’ve been crying all of my life and I still can’t talk through tears like Tony.
Tony and I partnered to lead the Men’s Ministry at Madison’s Ford Campus, and I watched in amazement as he gave birth to his vision – MXG – Men Experiencing God. Tony loved the Word, loved the church, and he loved to look for God everywhere. He invited us into his vision so that young men and old, fathers and sons, could experience God in the way that was so close to his heart. He poured hours into his labor of love, prepared countless chorizo and egg burritos, and encouraged us to break the rules so that we could have church behind an ice-cold waterfall off the shores of Lake Superior.
Tony taught us to love deeply. Tony loved God with all of his heart. He loved his family as deeply as I’ve seen anyone do it, and they loved him right back. At the close of our epic camping trips, Tony could not wait to get home to his beautiful bride and incredible son. Sue and Brendan, thank you for sharing him with us for those weekends. Both of you are incredible and you will always hold a special place in my heart. And Brendan, if you play hoops for the Spartans, I will gladly give up the maize and blue to cheer you on.
The older I get, the more I realize that we should tell people more often that we love them. Tony was good at that. And when his treatments left him too sick to get out of the house, I knew that if I texted him, “Love you,” he would text back, “Love you too, brother.”
Tony also taught me about Plan G-O-D. When plans A, B, and C do not work, it’s time for Plan G-O-D. A few years ago, I was scheduled to be in court on the morning that we were set to leave for a camping weekend – a seven-hour trip with a reservation awaiting our group. I didn’t know what to do, but Tony did. He wrote an incredible letter of support for me, told me I was still going on that trip, and had all 17 trip participants in the courtroom with me, trusting God’s plan. Tony didn’t just have my back, but he brought reinforcements to stack the odds. I will never forget that.
I’ll close with one lesson Tony taught us over and over again – leave it better than you found it. Tony loved being in God’s marvelous Creation, and he wanted to make sure that anyone who followed us to a campsite could enjoy it also. Whether Tony fully realized it or not, and I think he did, he was doing the same with us. He left us better than when he found us. I thank God for the blessing of being put on Tony’s path.
Love you, brother.