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Tony NertoliA life well lived…Anthony “Tony” Lewis Nertoli, 1946 – 2021

A great man who had a big, generous heart for his family and community, Anthony “Tony” Louis Nertoli, has crossed over to the spirit world to join his parents, Lucille (Hatch) Nertoli and Germano (Joe) Nertoli, his sister Barb (Edward “Pie”) Pine, and brother Phillip (Penny) Nertoli.

Of all the things he accomplished in life, Tony’s greatest love was family. A member of the Bear Clan, Tony was known as M’kwa Ogimaa ba (Bear Chief), also Dad, Uncle, Papa-Misho, Nert, Papa Nert and Big Brother. Tony is survived by his son, Thomas (Michaela) Dangler and grandson, William; and sisters, Jolene Nertoli and Catherine (Nertoli) DeVoy. Tony counts 68 nieces and nephews, including Michael (Becky) Pine and sons Christopher, David, Douglas; Debra Ann (Christopher Hall) Pine and children Alexia, Jada, Justin, Nick; Steven (Carrie) Pine and children Hunter, Samantha and Chance; Mariea (Dan) Pine-Mongene and children Joe, Jolene, Melinda; Priscilla Pine and daughter Aubrie; Becky Nertoli and children Jen, Nathan, Jordan and Brandon; Phillip Nertoli Jr.; Angela (Todd) Nertoli-Filback and children Donald, Jessica, Jocelyn, Kaitlynn; Luci (Holly) DeVoy; Rita DeVoy and daughter Luna; Tony (Amy) Nertoli; and many more great, great, great nieces and nephews.

Tony’s life was blessed by two additional families that he also deeply loved…his tribe and baseball. A decades long career began in Tony’s last year of college working for TV 9/10 as a camera man. He often told the story of being the only reporter allowed behind the barricade lines during the Bay Mills Indian Community’s protest over treaty fishing rights. Tony began work for his second family, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Tony served his tribe in many ways—as an elected tribal board member, a community developer, as well as one of the tribe’s first appellate judges, before settling in as the director of the USDA Commodity Food Program. During his tenure, Tony and his staff provided food to thousands of tribal citizens in Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In this role, Tony assumed additional service at the national level as president of the Native American Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR). Because of his efforts, the Sault Tribe became a national leader in addressing food insecurity in Indian Country. Serving four consecutive, two-year terms, Tony was most proud of the achievement of developing Food Distribution Centers nationwide that provided needy families with respect and dignity as they shopped for what they needed, including fresh foods.

Tony’s third family was the Sault Baseball Team. Tony’s love for the game came from his parents. He said, “I owe everything I’ve achieved to them. My dad loved baseball.” Generations of players have passed through the Sault program while Tony coached. Lovingly called “Papa-Nert” by his players, Tony said, “You are a coach to them for a few years and then you’re a part of their lives. That’s what makes it so worthwhile—the relationship that you create.” Tony’s baseball career included induction into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2000) and the Gordon Malcolm Sportsman of the Year award (1997). After a brief retirement, Tony came back as assistant coach to the Sault High JV team.

Tony coached and mentored many of his players to go on to bigger and better life achievements. When needed, he took care of them like his own kids, earning the nickname, Papa-Nert.

Tony told his players that there are three things that would be fine for a coach to be remembered for: “Win more than lose, play with pride, know that someone cared.” Tony will always be remembered for his inspiration to achieve, his pride in who he was and where he came from, and especially for the great love he so generously shared with his personal family, his tribal family and the hundreds of players and parents who were his baseball family.

Tony will lay at the Niigaanagiizhik Ceremonial Building from his entrance ceremony Monday, Nov. 29, afternoon until the final ceremony at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Burial will be held at Donaldson Catholic Cemetery.

Arrangements are in the care of C.S. Mulder Funeral Home and Cremation Services. Condolences may be left online at www.csmulder.com

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY