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out out, brief candle (r.i.p. tony)

Emmet “Tony” Larimer died last night, aged 79.

And for the past 27 hours, I’ve been at a loss for words.

Tony was more than a teacher to me. He was a friend and mentor, a role model for conducting one’s self at all times. He was a gentleman among giants, a kind Grinch, a master thespian and constructive acting coach, a master of two bards (Shakespeare and Seuss), and an icon to everybody who had the chance to work with or learn from him.

When I first learned he’d developed lung cancer, I posted about it. And those words still apply – all of ’em.

But there’s one other thing that Tony taught us all in his English classroom all those years ago, another one of those things that’s impossible to forget:


According to Webster’s, metonymy is:

A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it.

It’s not one of the most often-used terms of the English language, but Tony made sure we never, ever would forget it. And why? As Tony would say:

“It contains my three favorite words: ‘me,’ ‘Tony’ and ‘my.'”

How can you argue with that? Three easy words for any of his students to keep in mind for a bit of grammar that is used every day (search the ‘net for examples if you need a refresher course – I’ll wait).

So to use a metonymy here that only fellow Winged Lions will recognize: the Lincoln Street Marching Band & Chowder Society raises a glass to a fallen comrade, mentor, leader and friend.

So Tony is no longer giving the cancer hell – he’s moved on to a new journey.

He fought the good fight, and we fought it with him. It can be seen in the outpouring of kind words on Tony’s Facebook page just how much he meant to his students, colleagues and friends.

Tony’s death strikes a chord within me and leaves a tangible void. He respected me, warts and all. He allowed second chances, but not without a lesson involved. He loved unconditionally, and triumphs of his students actually meant something to him, whether or not they were in his class. And I know he always marveled in what his pupils went on to do after graduation – he would live through them, and continues to live on through them.

His face conveyed a range of emotions that could run the gamut from elation to despair, fear to aggression, fatigue to hyper within a matter of seconds (and the eyebrows always played a role – who can forget them?). His voice – oh, that voice – resonated around the halls of both RHSM campus locations, becoming an intrinsic part of the bricks, boards, books and desks.

It’s impossible for me to think about RHSM without Tony in the hall, or in his office, or in the auditorium asking for the 14th take of a scene from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, or walking between Van Evra Hall and the main lobby at the old Avenues campus, or playing the Grinch for generations of students and colleagues.

And his impact reached far beyond the school, deep into Utah’s arts culture. That community grieves, as well.

Tony, yours was certainly not a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Yours was a tale told by a kind and wise master, signifying much more than you will ever know.

I will never forget you – or your loving, caring wife, Marie, who always comes to mind when I have a biking mishap and have to crack open the first-aid kit.

Tony, you were, and are, my Captain.

Bless you and thank you, Tony Larimer.

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