Published October 5, 2010

Paul's Epistle...

As I'm sure you've heard by now, our friend Tony Greene of the Greenes passed away September 28th at 4:25 p.m. Tony was just 41.

For many years, Tony had "end stage" kidney failure and required regular dialysis. In fact, doctors determined that he had been born with only one kidney. Then about a year ago he underwent a successful kidney transplant from his wife, Taranda, who, amazingly, turned out to be a perfect donor. But this August he contracted pneumonia, and doctors never were able to rid him of it totally. It damaged his donated kidney, and, with a depressed immune system, another virus combined with the other factors to overwhelm his system.

I had been interviewing Tony since he was a teenager, back in the 1980s, just a few years after the Greenes had gone fulltime. And he was always just as effervescent and upbeat as in recent years, mixed in with a healthy dose of "get the job done!" Dave Compton of WPET radio in Greensboro, NC, told me he first met Tony when he was 13 -- and Tony was busy handing out business cards for the group. Later, in the 1990s, after the group returned home from a weekend tour, Tony would often jump in his car and head off to another city where he'd be promoting another concert – as many as 30 such concerts a year.

If there's one word that could describe Tony (and there are many, all good), it would be "tireless." Oh, he got physically tired – especially in recent years. In fact, the last time I saw him – at the National Quartet Convention two weeks before his death – he looked very tired. But in his approach to all he did -- singing (including at NQC), concert promoting, witnessing -- he was tireless. In fact, we did an interview recently – and he was exceedingly upbeat, excited about a new Greenes recording, and thanking God for all He had done and was doing for him and for the group. But, that was simply the way Tony was.

Tony was much loved in the Gospel music field. And that was evident to the end, as a constant stream of artists – friends – detoured on their tours to come and visit Tony's bedside. In fact, Tony Gore told his newsletter readers that he received a call about an hour before Tony's death from someone visiting in Tony's room. "On the other end," Tony Gore wrote, "I could hear a choir of Tony's family and friends gathered around his bedside singing, ‘So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, they don't worry me, for I am sheltered safe within the arms of God... He walks with me and naught of earth can harm me, for I'm sheltered in the arms of God!' ... You talk about singing, they were singing so beautiful!"

Among those there was Gerald Wolfe: "I had a sad but glorious experience as I witnessed the passing of our friend, Tony Greene. As family and friends stood by his bedside and watched him slip away into Paradise, there were tears, but there was also singing, and even occasional laughter, as we remembered the things that made Tony, Tony. ... We rejoice in Tony's victory, and we grieve for those left behind, but we don't grieve as those who have no hope. We know there is a reunion just ahead, and, as Pastor Phil Hoskins said at Roger Bennett's Homegoing Celebration a few years ago, ‘We'll be with him a lot longer than we'll be without him.'"

Tony's sister, Kim Hopper, put it this way: "Sitting in that hospital, every time I would turn around, there came a new group of faces awaiting their turn to hold his hands and say a prayer over him. As I stood there next to my 17-month-younger little brother, watching him struggle through his final breaths, I bent down to tell him the cavalry was coming, and they were coming for him." A short time later, that angelic cavalry did.

Back in 1992, the Greenes had a song called "Lord Find Me Faithful." Back then, Tony told me, "When the adversities of life come our way and things happen that we cannot understand, when we feel like we can't go on, sometimes it is best for us to just stand ... and be faithful to the Lord no matter what comes our way. That is the life that Christ wants us to have. And then when we do that, all those other problems that we have, God will take care of them as long as we are faithful to Him. Lord, in all things find me faithful." Despite a lifetime of adversities — the loss of his father, his own longstanding health issues and more — Tony was faithful to the very end.

Please remember Tony's wife, Taranda, their two young daughters and extended family in your prayers during the difficult period ahead.

- Paul

Comments on this? paulheil@thegospelgreats.com

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