Tony painted with a broad brush
He marked a chapter in my life along with other great guys.
They buried one of my old friends today Feb. 11, 2009. Tony Dal Sasso, age 86, died Feb. 8. Our friendship went back to late 1950.
Starting in the early 1960s, we took part in political elections, always on the same side. Back then the Democratic Party controlled all political offices in the state and county. The party was actually split in factions, the conservative and liberal arms of the party. Tony and I, along with Jimmy Conn, Joe Blanda and most of the business community were conservative and were most often on the losing end of the campaign.
Bob Montagne, Nolton Brown, Gene and Flo Edgerly and others were stanch liberal campaigners and very successful at it. I don’t believe my friend W.T. Oliver, a conservative, ever ran for a political office that didn’t have Tony’s support. In fact, he served as campaign manager on a couple of Oliver’s runs. W.T. was one of my dearest friends.
Tony’s death leaves me as one of the few who go back to that period, 50 years ago. We had our successes but we broke the back of the Orange County liberal movement with the election of state Rep. Wayne Peveto and the defeat of Clyde Haynes, the liberal’s fair-haired boy.
Texas started to change and conservative democrats made inroads, which led to the state swinging to the right and electing George Bush over Gov. Ann Richardson. Tony had some republican leanings, especially in national elections, but one democratic candidate he supported for president was John F. Kennedy. I suspect, like Blanda and almost every Catholic I knew, he was supporting a chance for the first Catholic to become U.S. president. Just like the blacks almost unanimously voted for Obama to be the first black president.
Most of those wonderful people I traveled down this road with are now gone. Tony was a prince of a guy. He had a lot of class, was always courteous and genuine. I was constantly amazed at his intelligence and how he always seemed to be a step ahead of most situations. Once he called and asked me to meet him for lunch at M.J.’s Café. I wondered what that could be about. It wasn’t about his business; it was about mine. He gave me some pointers and advice. One thing he told me that stuck and I’ve tried to practice was to “Think ahead of your competition. Never concern yourself with what they are doing, concern yourself with what your own employees are doing for the good of your business.” He had a specific reason for telling me that which I won’t go into. After that I always tried to stay one step ahead. We came up with ideas that were picked up by competitors.
I often bounced things off of Tony. He never gave radical answers. He gave me some advice that unfortunately I didn’t take, and it cost me $400,000 in taxes when I sold the Opportunity Valley News. I never did admit to him I hadn’t followed his instructions.
Over the years our newspapers have published several stories about Tony. The last story was a few years ago when he returned to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he graduated with degrees in history and economics. He was also on the football team and was a guest on the sideline, along with his fellow teammates who were still living. Tony was excited about that trip and called me to come see all his pictures, including the brand new football stadium.
Tony and his brother Ray, both former FBI agents, came to Orange in the mid 1950s; his accomplishments are history now and have been written about many times. He was a leader and the godfather in the real estate and development field. When Tony arrived, Orange had a large Italian population. He was right at home. I still recall how they gave each other a hard time in a kidding way.
I also recall Margaret, Tony’s young, beautiful wife, who loved the sun. Most days Margaret could be found sunning at the Pines Motel pool on MacArthur Drive in Orange, owned by Lawrence Gray.
His son, who gave swimming lessons to our kids, later became a doctor. Margaret survives him, as does their daughter Chrisleigh, who has run the business over the last few years.
Tony’s many projects weren’t only in Bridge City, West Orange, Pinehurst and Orange. Dal Sasso has developments throughout Jefferson County. If it weren’t for Tony and the other developers, who back then gambled their money on big projects, our area would have had a much slower growth. Tony was an honest entrepreneur who really cared about the community and it’s people.
He gave much of his time to civic service.
I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with Anton “Tony” Dal Sasso.
I’m sure others feel the same. He was one of the rare jewels we collected down life’s highway. May he rest in peace and have a great time with all those great guys that went before him.