Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cooling Waters: In Memory of Anthony J. Riley

Oh what a relief it was
When God rescued me, He loose my chains
that had me bound, and then he set me free
it felt like, cooling water. . .

                                     ~ "Cooling Waters" by The Williams Brothers
             I can't remember a time when I didn't know Tony but I didn't really get to know him until we started working together at the Social Security Administration. 

             That first day at SSA, we walked into the building at the same time. He towered about a foot over me with a huge Alabama A&M umbrella covering him. We didn't exchange any words as he held the door open for me but I thought to myself, "That's Janie's boy."

             And a mama's boy he was, at least in my opinion. I tried to say something negative about Tony to Mrs. Janie once and she gave me a look that said, "you better not bad mouth my boy."

             One day during our six month Claims Authorizer training, we had a potluck lunch and I contributed the brownies. I knew they didn't come out right but I took them to work anyway. Tony ate that brownie without saying a word and with no expression on his face while his best friend Eric spit it out. I knew then Tony and I could be friends for life.

             Tony made working at SSA enjoyable. A group of us (including Eric, Jameelah, Camille, Lesha and sometimes Stan) took our morning breaks together for years. In the morning, Tony and I would be the first to get to the table. By the time everyone else arrived, we would be quoting Kanye West lyrics and lines from the movie Idlewild which got on Lesha's nerves.

            He kept us laughing; said me and Eric were the reasons our health insurance premiums kept going up. He predicted that every time I said I didn't have a appetite I was going to end up connected to someone's IV soon after. He was usually right.
             I hosted Bethesda Young Adult Bible Study at my home once a month and I always tried to get Tony to come. He said he was leading our street team by ministering at Platinum of Birmingham on those Friday nights.

             Oh and I always talked to Tony about my man troubles. Once, I called him on his desk phone at work and I said, "Tony, be honest with me. Do I in any way remind you of a frog?" He thought real hard and said no. I said, "I heard one of my ex-boyfriends refer to me as Kermit." Tony burst out laughing before I could even get the whole sentence out of my mouth. He said, "Alison, he is probably talking about your voice."

             In one of our most memorable conversations, Tony told me "A. Mo, if he can't handle you at 50% he doesn't deserve you when you are 100%! Can I get an Amen?

             I could go on forever retelling my fondest memories of Tony including the adventure I had with him as my real estate agent. 

            We didn't talk much that last year and a half of his life. I know I was going through some stuff and I suppose he was too. I couldn't miss the opportunity to speak at his funeral. I tried to incorporate some lyrics of the song quoted above but couldn't figure out how to fit them into my remarks. I don't know why but he loved that song.

             Even two years later, if I hear anyone say, "Hey A. Mo," my natural response is always "Hey T. Riley."


  1. That is a touching tribute. Kudos. We should all be lucky to have someone like Tony (and you) in our lives.

  2. Abris Amos-DoBynesJune 12, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    I miss him so much. RIP my friend!

  3. Abris, I am sorry. I am just seeing your comment.I think of Tony almost every day. His birthday is coming up next week. I miss him so much too.