ALEXANDRIA, VA –
June 12, 1938 ~ January 14, 2021 (age 82)
“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use Words if necessary,” St. Francis of Assisi
Tony passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at Winchester Medical Center on Thursday evening, January 14, 2021 from complications of cancer he had battled for two years. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Donna, his three children (and their spouses), Tony (Patty), David (Uley), Marylisa Lichens (Dan), his seven Grandchildren Lindsay Damiani Peer (Alan), Anthony (fiancé Jess), Daniel, Van, Ruby, Daniela, Conrad and one Great Grandchild Adam as well as Tony’s extended family in Italy and the United States. He was a member of the First Christian Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Tony was a longtime member and participant of the Masons Henry Knox Field – John Blair Lodge No. 349, Scottish Rites, and Kena Temple Shriners.
Tony was born in Morro D’oro, Teramo, Italy in 1938, the fourth of six children, and raised on his family farm. When he was young, his hometown was occupied by Nazi forces. Life was hard and constantly threatened. Food was scarce. Tony saw his friends’ fathers lined up against a church and executed. Like many at the time, he was forced to hide his own father in a hollowed-out haystack for the duration of the war. Despite the risk, he and his family protected their farm and neighbors to the best of their abilities. One of the best days of his childhood was when the American GIs arrived and liberated his town. This fostered his lifelong love of the United States and fueled his desire to move there. These experiences forged Tony into a focused, driven, and determined young man.
Tony left home at 12 years old to become an apprentice mechanic and by the time he was 14, he was managing an auto repair station in nearby Roseto delgi Abbruzzi, a town located on the Adriatic Sea. In his spare time, he repaired commercial fishing boats and dreamed of coming to the United States.
In 1957, at the age of 19, FIAT offered Tony a chance to come to America and manage its auto repair operation in Washington D.C. On December 5, 1957, he arrived in the New York Harbor with a single suitcase in his hand containing all of his worldly possessions. Throughout his life, Tony remembered the first time he saw the Statue of Liberty and it always remained a treasured symbol of America to him.
Tony settled in Alexandria, Virginia and his early years saw him leaving FIAT to work at Frank’s Garage in Alexandria. While working at Frank’s, he met his future wife Donna Acree when she walked by to catch the bus to George Washington High School. This started a love story that lasted his entire life.
Tony and Donna were married on September 19, 1964 and started their family soon after. Tony proudly became a citizen of the United States in 1965. In 1969, Tony and Donna bought a local gas station on Commonwealth Avenue and opened Tony’s Gulf Service. Within a few years, Tony and Donna had three children, Tony, Dave and Marylisa, and the business outgrew the Commonwealth Avenue location. Tony and Donna moved the business to a larger space in Old Town, Alexandria and renamed it Tony’s Auto Service, which has become known to the residents of the DMV simply as “Tony’s.”
Tony’s worked on cars, trucks, buses, ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles, humvees, and a variety of fleets and busses. Tony developed thousands of loyal customers and, in more than one case, repaired cars for generations of different families. Tony’s had the high honor of being selected to handle 6 consecutive United States Presidential Inaugurations and it prepared and serviced the caisson used in President Ronald Reagan’s funeral. In addition, Tony personally worked on several special projects, including working on the development of the space shuttle, nuclear submarines, environmental regulations, and even the first indoor golf simulator!
Tony was a friend, mentor, teacher and inspiration to everyone he met. He took time to talk, to listen and to advise anyone who sought his advice. From Presidents, senators, congressmen and general officers to actors, policemen, firemen, and janitors, Tony respected each one equally and touched and inspired many lives.
Above all, Tony cherished his family. Finding time in a demanding schedule to take his children on vacation, trips to Italy, Disney World, travel soccer tournaments (he would drive the bus) and rock concerts. He had season tickets to the Washington Redskins, Bullets, Capitals and Diplomats. With his family, Tony was a teacher, mentor, medic, cook and grill master, mischievous prankster, cheerleader, confidant, mad scientist, animal whisperer and best friend. He was a dynamo, with endless energy and creativity, who could repair a car or build a home with equal skill and attention to detail. Tony enjoyed spending time at his country home, hunting, hiking (no one moved faster through the woods), gardening, and taking care of a variety of animals, including his two beloved donkeys Pasquale and Natale. He loved making homemade wine and involving all the family members in the process. He had a green thumb and always had beautiful hydrangeas, begonias and roses around his patio and grew a grape and wisteria arbor around his pool in Alexandria. He and Donna were at the center of the family wheel and Tony always had a twinkle in his eye, roses in his cheeks, and smile on his face.
He was One in a Million! God bless the life of Antonio “Tony” Damiani! Soar high! Sempre Avanti!
Tony’s favorite charity is the Shriner’s Children Hospital and donations can be made on his behalf at shrinershospitalsforchildren.org.