The fire-rescue community in Southwest Florida is mourning the loss of a man known for helping anyone.
Tuesday, Firefighter Tony Christensen died of COVID-19 at the hospital in Orlando where he was being treated.
Tony was known for his service as well as being an animal lover, who took time do to the simple things like stopping to fix a broken door at a restaurant.
Firefighters paid their respects to Tony Wednesday, visiting the Gendron Funeral Home in Fort Myers where his body is resting currently.
Many people referred to Christensen as a “teddy bear,” a perfect nickname for a man who stood 6-foot-5. A friend of Tony said he was as gentle as they come. His kindness was his trademark.
Local bar Liki Tiki BBQ Naples was Tony’s favorite place to visit after a shift. In his honor, the bar saved Tony a seat.
Gone and already missed, Tony had a way about him that touched people.
”He did the third shift at the fire station, so he’d come here around 7 a.m., and I was always here cleaning, getting the place ready,” said Gordon Stojoski with Liki Tiki. “We’d have a few drinks before he’d go home and go to sleep.”
And it was those special moments Stojoski holds onto in his grief.
“He liked his Tito’s and soda,” Stojoski said. “We’ve been leaving one for him every day, waiting for him from the hospital.”
The folks at Liki Tiki still have a seat reserved for Christensen, now decorated with American flags as a small tribute to the Naples firefighter who seemed to be everyone’s friend.
”Our grand opening day, some of our doors weren’t working properly so he went home and brought a bunch of tools and got down on his knees to try and help us get the place open,” Stojoski said.
Tony seemed to always be there, whether it was helping the community or being there for neighbors on his street.
”I had a severe fall,” said Dan Guan, Tony’s neighbor and friend. “And [Tony] just came in and sat down and just wanted to do whatever he could to help.”
”When he went into the hospital here in Naples, obviously, we weren’t allowed to go in and see him,” Stojoski said. “Nobody sat there for 30 days. We were waiting for him to come home.”
Unfortunately, Tony did not recover from COVID-19, but he is now home with his family, friends and community — forever in their hearts.
”This is one of the saddest days of my life,” Guan said.
“Naples has lost one of the best people that ever been in this town,” Stojoski said.
Those we spoke to say Tony’s wife is heartbroken right now. The Naples Fire-Rescue shared Tony’s funeral arrangements Wednesday.
According to the the fire department Facebook post, a private viewing for Firefighter Tony Christensen will be Thursday evening for family and close friends only. They ask everyone respect their wishes for privacy then.
The public Memorial Service will be a traditional fire service ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. See the post for more details.