This past week we received word that Tony Arrington passed away on Sunday. He had been in declining health for the past several years and dementia had robbed him of his once great intellect. Tony was 82.
Tony was one of Laura’s colleagues in the Chemistry Department at Furman University. He was also an alumnus of the school. He was in the last group that attend classes on the old Furman campus downtown and in one of the first groups to move to the new campus. Tony went on to do graduate work in physical chemistry and received his PhD from Harvard. He returned to Furman in the 1960s to teach at Furman, where he stayed until his retirement several years ago.
Tony married Bonnie Higgins, and Tony and Bonnie soon became integral parts of Furman’s tight-knit community. Laura says that they were the first to have her over to dinner when she arrived at Furman from California, graciously inviting her for an Easter meal of rack of lamb. They were always gracious and made her feel right at home.
As it turns out, Tony was not only a good friend and colleague, but family. When Laura and I were dating we were having dinner with my parents. My mother asked Laura, “Do you know Tony Arrington?” Laura responded that Tony’s office was right next door to hers, so she knew him well. Mom responded with, “Well, he’s my cousin!” Mom and Tony’s mother, the late Ottie Ward, were first cousins, making Tony and me second cousins.
Over the years we got to know Tony and Bonnie very well. Bonnie taught math at Travelers Rest High School while Tony continued at Furman. Tony was a Renaissance man with a wide range of interests. He taught Sunday School at First Baptist in Greenville and was always telling us about the latest books he had read. Tony introduced us to the novels of Tony Hillerman when we were heading out for our time in Arizona. He also traveled widely, spending summers at Los Alamos with students from Furman doing research.
Along with Noel and Connie Kane-Maguire, Tony and Bonnie were our football partners. The six of us had season tickets together for all of the Furman football games for many, many years. The Arringtons would host wonderful after-game parties as well as other events throughout the years.
Bonnie and Tony were very active. Bonnie enjoyed taking bicycling trips in Europe. Tony competed in the annual Chemistry Iron Man competitions when he wasn’t in Los Alamos. While in New Mexico Tony would take his students on grueling hikes in the mountains. Tony and Bonnie bought a kayak and occasionally joined us on paddling trips.
Tony and Bonnie’s daughters Elaine and Kate both graduated from Furman and went on to pursue advanced degrees. Caleb went to Richmond and followed in his father’s footsteps and became a professor at Wofford. Tony was also close to his late brother, John, and his two sisters, Ruth and Lucille.
Bonnie succumbed to cancer in 2012, but Tony continued to teach at Furman. After his retirement Tony’s health began to decline with increasing dementia. Tony moved into The Woodlands at Furman where he spent his remaining years.
Both Tony and Bonnie are missed by us personally, and by the greater Furman/Greenville community. Furman has lost one of its icons. Peace and condolences to the Arrington family.