Tony Farrell Sr. could lead a plush life, but volunteerism calls
People Who Matter
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Tony Farrell Sr.
Family: Londa, his wife of 43 years; son, Tony Jr.; daughter, Jessica; a daughter- and son-in-law and two grandchildren. The children and grandchildren live in Janesville.
Work: Former owner of Voight Music Centers in Janesville and Beloit. His son, Tony Farrell Jr., now owns the business, but Farrell Sr. and Londa remain involved.
His first band: The Nocturns. Farrell started getting paid to play when he was 17 and in high school.
His "other" hobby: Martial arts. The 63-year-old Farrell trains daily for two hours. "I stay in shape because it's my soul until the end of my life," he said.
Volunteer projects: The list is long and includes Freedom Fest, Janesville Performing Arts Center, River Fest, the Wisconsin Governors Mansion and the Rock County Coroner's Office. The project closest to his heart is Special Touch Ministries, founded by his brother-in-law. The organization hosts summer camps and provides other services for people with disabilities. Visit specialtouch.org.
JANESVILLE The Rev. Michael Jackson thinks Tony Farrell Sr. is smart enough to have his pick of jobs.
Indeed, Farrell's business card shows he is a man of many talents—music, martial arts and security, to name a few.
And there's no end to the places where you'll run into Farrell: Rock County Board meetings, Janesville School Board meetings, Freedom Fest, Janesville Performing Arts Center ... sometimes it seems he's everywhere.
But he's not just "there."
Farrell is there to serve, Jackson said.
"He is an exemplary person who has a passion to serve," Jackson said. "He is a research scientist ... He could be involved in a lot of endeavors. He has chosen the course of volunteerism."
Farrell, 63, of Janesville spent most of his working years as the owner of Voight Music Centers in Janesville and Beloit.
Farrell and his wife, Londa, have passed the business on to their son, Tony Jr., but they remain active at the stores, Farrell said.
When they have spare time, of course.
The list of Farrell's volunteer projects is long. One of the most recent is the suicide prevention presentation Farrell gives as a volunteer deputy for the Rock County Coroner's Office, where Farrell has been sworn in since 2008.
"I couldn't ask for a more dedicated and enthusiastic team member," Coroner Jenifer Keach said.
Farrell speaks about the signs of potential suicide to church, school and private groups. He has donated more than 1,000 hours to the program, he said.
"I've seen tragedies. I've seen heartache. My heart goes out to all the families and all the survivors. They're all dealing with pain," Farrell said. "I certainly want to do everything I can to save lives."
He also collects stuffed animals for the office's Remember Me program, which provides stuffed animals to grieving children and adults.
"Tony volunteered to ask his church group for a toy donation drive," Keach said. "I had barely turned around, and Tony told us the church was donating 600 stuffed toys."
Farrell's favorite charity is Special Touch Ministries, which provides services including summer camps for people with disabilities. Farrell and Londa volunteer each summer to work security at the camp.
Specifically, Farrell holds back traffic while children with limited mobility cross a busy road from their cabins to the campground.
That's the image that stands out in his mind when he thinks about Farrell, said Jackson, senior pastor at New Life Assembly of God, where Farrell and his wife attend services.
"To be as brilliant as he his, for him to stoop down and help someone who can't give back and who might not even know he's being helped," Jackson said.
"That shows Tony isn't doing this for flash and for show. He and his wife truly love people, all people. That's just them."