Monday, July 14, 2014

Honoring a Good Man Gone Too Soon

We who choose to be born will all die, and we will all leave a legacy in our wake. I have been incredibly blessed to be able to spend time with some amazing folks who have gone on to the next phase, and though I am sad they are no longer around, I continue to remember the good that they brought into my life and our world. One of those folks is my cousin Anthony Wilder who passed way too young in the spring of 2013. His legacy includes a beautiful young daughter who I can't wait to watch grow up, and his spirit serves as a ready reminder of how we should all live. Anthony, like all of us, had his struggles in life, but when I think about him I always remember that he was happiest when he was serving others. He was a big man with a big heart for giving. No matter what he was dealing with, he was always ready to listen and offer a helping hand. More than anything I remember his laugh and smile during good times. His soul lives on, and wherever he is out there, he is still reminding me that giving of yourself in the service of others is the real secret to finding joy in this life.

When Anthony passed, I was honored to receive his bass. I remember when he first got the guitar how proud and excited he was about it. He was definitely a music lover. He was also a tinkerer, and some of the guts of the bass had been pulled out, probably to be used in some wild fashion in one of his neighborhood-shaking car stereo installations! I held onto the guitar thinking that someday I would fix it up and use it to record or play live myself, but I sat starting at its case not long ago and realized that doing so would not be the best way to honor his legacy. Anthony was happiest when giving to others, so I knew what should be done. 

Driving through Knoxville on I-40 I would pass by the Joy of Music school constantly, and I was always intrigued by what exactly the place was all about.
 Looking at their website and talking to some musicians around town, I realized that the school really does some awesome things. From their website: "With a volunteer board and one staff member they undertake the mission of providing a quality music education to financially disadvantaged, at-risk youth." I cannot overstate the impact of music education on my life, and I applaud these folks for providing free instruction to those who might not otherwise receive it. We all hear about sports programs that help disadvantaged kids rise above their circumstances, but music seems to be undervalued as an avenue for self discovery and betterment. The good people at the Joy of Music School have filled this void in our community and taken it upon themselves to provide a great opportunity for young people. I knew that Anthony would be happy to know his bass was helping kids better themselves, so I reached out to the school to see if they would be interested in having it. Ed Sublett, manager of volunteer resources at the school, let me know that they would be very happy to accept the bass in Anthony's honor.

Anthony would go out of his way to help others, and I knew he wouldn't want a non-functioning instrument to be given in his honor, so I sought out some help in getting the bass back in shape. Steve Vandergriff of Rik's Music & Sound had helped me out before getting one my guitars back in great shape, so I reached out to him for help with the bass. I told him the plans for donating the instrument, and he graciously repaired the instrument for me. A new wiring harness, tuning peg, and strings got the bass ready to rock and roll once again. Many thanks to Steve for doing a great job on it, and go see him and the folks at Rik's if you're in Knoxville and need anything music related.

Ready for the kids!
The bass went to Ed Sublett and the Joy of Music School in honor and remembrance of Anthony Wilder today, and his legacy of giving will continue through who knows how many lives. Ed let me know that the school will place a decal on the bass honoring Anthony as well. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be a small part of this story, and I know Anthony will be smiling whenever a kid jams on his bass. Please support all music education, and remember to tell your loved ones that you love them because you just never know if you'll get another chance.

I love you and miss you, man. See you on the other side.


  1. I like to think that by the time I see Ant again, he is sure to have some delicious food ready for all of his friends.

  2. This is a good commentary, Doug. Anthony seldom missed a Men's Breakfast, and I enjoyed getting to converse with him in a more "unhurried" situation.