Anthony Paul Filiberto: In Broad Strokes
Collector Bill Bayba, a CPA, says he has eight A Pauls in his office alone and that they all “make such a statement in the room. My clients go, ‘Wow, that is just beautiful,’” he says.
The first time Bayba bought a painting of Tony’s from the gallery, Tony said to him, “‘I want you to step up to it and smell it.’ It was still fresh,” he says. Tony made him touch a spot on it, too, so he could get a feel for the consistency. He wanted him not just to see the work but to experience it with all his senses.
And when you walked into his studio, Bayba says, “He could be in the middle of painting, but he would get up and give you a big hug. He was just such a generous person. He would promote other artists as much as he would promote himself.
“Sometimes you’d go up to his studio and he’d say, ‘I’m going to try something different. Whadya think of this?’ Another time he’d be playing pool at the studio’s pool table. ‘Gotta take a break, let the brain rest a moment so I can be more creative. Wanna play with me?’” And then conversation would flow from there.
It was during one such warm, engaging conversation he was having with a friend on the phone one day in mid December of 2019 that Tony couldn’t get the words out while trying to tell a story. The friend told him to put Kerry on the phone and then urged her to rush him to the emergency room for fear he was having a stroke.
It wasn’t a stroke. It was brain cancer. Tony was in surgery the very next day, when as much of the malignancy as possible could be removed. A more definitive diagnosis was due on December 23rd. Two days before that, the eldest of Tony’s three sons died unexpectedly. Then he and Kerry received word that the cancer was a very aggressive type, glioblastoma, with a poor survival rate. Less than a year later, the day before Thanksgiving 2020, he was gone.
Artist McCray remembers talking to Tony about coping with the passing of beloved people some years ago. Kerry had put together an exhibition of her work, and she came to Provincetown for the opening. It was an exciting evening. “But in talking with me,” McCray says, “Tony saw that I was off. ‘I’m really struggling right now,’” she confided in him.
“‘Let’s step out on the sidewalk,’ he said.
“We leaned against a wall, and I told him that my father and two of my best friends died within six weeks of each other just a few months prior. He got really quiet for a minute and then asked if I’d like to hear some of his experiences, which I did. Afterwards, he looked at me firmly but also gently and reminded me that all of those people I had lost were celebrating with me and would want me to fully be there on my night. ‘You can keep fighting your sorrow,’ he said, ‘or put it on your shelf for a minute. It’ll be there. They would want this for you.’
“That gave me perspective. Sorrow can be isolating if you’re not careful. It slices through you. But once it’s shared it’s not quite as desperate.
“Sharing doesn’t diminish our sorrow but reminds us that in our loving memories of people we can add more depth, more enthusiasm, more joy to our own lives. That’s really how we best memorialize the people we care about. Tony had the wisdom to know that.”
Larry Lindner is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.
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