Our Tony is dead

Our Tony is Dead

Our Tony is dead but his inspiration, energy and leadership lives on. Tony Akpeki, my beloved brother was a visionary, easily the face of love, gentleness and care. . He believed that if there was a vision, a will, connection, empathy and commitment everything is possible. He gave people a sense of power with kindness, encouragement, lifting them up, being authentic and making people who felt invisible feel valued, visible and heard.

Full of life, Tony made everyday count. He often said to me, ‘Be kind for everyone you meet is facing a hard battle’.  These words from Pluto resonated with him as he overcame adversity with a smile, a laugh.  He created a sense of lightness and fun for others as he faced with challenges with stoic resolve and considered how he could make things easier for those around him.  The rare skill to laugh at himself, to wade through thorny situations and carry others with lightness, kindness and humour made him even more invaluable. Always the light in a party, Tony gave people around him  a cause for celebration and warmth. 

In 2010 he jokingly encouraged me to go to ‘that place where they fix you’.  He meant Learning as Leadership (LAL) in San Francisco. What he did not know is that LAL reaffirmed the wealth of my family, the richness of relationships that enabled me to flourish and enabled me to treasure him even more!  Tony leaves behind a strong legacy of leadership that leads, that follows, that lifts and feels.  He may no longer be an earthly citizen, but he leaves a lasting legacy that serves a hurting world. 

Tony leaves a strong footprint of kindness.  He was doing a good job in helping people get through the pandemic, recognising that it was a difficult time for people.   It was during the course of duty that he was killed by a hit and run driver. 

 Visit www.forevermissed.com /AnthonyAkpeki  to discover the man Tony who was my beloved brother, a precious jewel who lives  in my heart and in the hearts of many others whose lives he touched.  He is gone but never forgotten.

Read Full Transcript

Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to TesseTalks with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co-host Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal and professional, and we hope you will walk with us in this adventure. Today’s a special day today we are going to be celebrating a wonderful person.

We’re going to be  celebrating Anthony Akpeki, who is Tesse’s brother. Anthony, who I knew and who we fondly called  was killed tragically in December of 2020. And as much as we mourn him in our hearts, we wanted you, the audience to know the Tony that we knew and testing particular ones to talk more about Tony, the brother, Tony, the leader, Tony, the dad, Tony, the husband.

And so I’m going to turn the mic over to Tesse. To let your listeners know more about this wonderful person, Tony, Akpeki, who left us tragedy in a hit and run accident on December 17, 2020. I know this is difficult for you  Tesse, but I’ll let you talk more about him.

Tesse: 00:01:33 Yes. Thank you, Paula. And thank you for that wonderful introduction.

Even as I’m going through this, my heart is breaking because brother Tony, as I call him he was my progress, but he was also my friends. He was my mentor. He was my coach and he was my supporter in my business. He was the business head. He was the one who had lots of ideas and lots of encouragement.

And particularly last year, that is 2020 Tony got really involved in my business and I would say to him, I’m so glad you’re my chief and my CEO. And he would smile. He always smiled. Tony had this amazing smile that just lit up a room. And he said I am you’re a CEO. And I said, yep. And he says, that’s great.

And I said wait until I tell you what I mean by CEO. And I would say, you’re my chief encouragement officer. You are my chief entertaining officer. And you are also my chief executive officer. And you are my chef officer because Tony was actually a trained chef and he loved nutrition and he loved people eating well and staying healthy.

And towards the end that added something more to his role description. And I said, you’re my chief exercise officer. Because he believed in people working out, going for walks, just having a lot of fresh air and really staying healthy. So the role of CEO had, many things in it. And he totally loved it.

He loved the fact that he was my CEO and I loved the fact that I had him as someone who was able to combine in multiple dimensional skillset to help me to be successful in my practice. And, I never ever took Tony for granted because I knew the assets that , he was. I also knew that I could trust him with my life and that is true.

I trust him with my life. And actually wake up every day and there was my CEO who was ever loyal and ever present was just such a gift. And that continued until, he, we went Nigeria and we both got locked down. He continued in that role. And I’m so glad that I had him that time and I miss him daily.

Paula: 00:03:57 I know as much as I can say, I understand your pain. Everyone’s pain is unique when we have lost a loved one. But one thing that we all agree on is that we want to keep their memory alive and we want to keep the memory and the things that they contributed to the world alive. So I know that he was your CEO.

I love all the acronyms you used. Chief executive officer is the one we all commonly know, but chief exercise, officer, chief entertainment, officer. I love that because Tony was very much full of life. He was jovial. Whenever I met him, he always had some joke to share whether he wanted to share it or not.

He had something to laugh about to cheer you up, and As much as we are laughing here. I have such pleasant memories of him, like in 2018 when I went to give a talk and England that we went to see him, we decided the night before the event to go visit him. So at 8:00 PM, we packed up our stuff, got on the London trains and we got to him about 11:00 PM.

And there he was waiting up. Everyone else had gone to bed. And he’s ah, here you are again. Here you are at last. Full three course meal for us, of course, with some wine.

And  that’s the memory I have of  Tone  when I saw him last. Because of course I came back to the United States.    We’re talking about Tony as  friend, a brother, you mentioned the community that he was everyone. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Tesse

Tesse: 00:05:43 In relation to the community, he just cared for people. He really believed that everybody was in and nobody was out. And what he meant by that was children. All the people disabilities. People of different sexual orientations. Men and women, black and white. Whatever attributes people had, he saw people as unique and different, and he actually treated them just like that. So he believed in humanity and being human. He believes in connecting people. He spans different countries, languages, et cetera. And so he builds up a community.

But,  interestingly, because Tony had so many challenges, with his own health he became diabetic. He also had severe asthma from a very young age. And there were times when he had tumors in his throat. He had two operations in his throat. He had a tumor in his brain. He had to have chemotherapy drugs for that. He had so many health challenges. And yet every time he had a health challenge, even when at the beginning he would take time out to consider it. He always bounced back. If you talk about the amount of resilience, he was a very resilient person because he would bounce back with, okay, I have this as a challenge, but how can I turn this to an opportunity? How can I make this work for myself and for others? So he actually lost an astronomical amount of weight.

I think it was a time when he lost about five, six stone. Because he was overweight. He lost that week became quite thin-ish. And he actually became Mr. Sleek of Slimmers World, two times in a row. He was Mr. Sleek because he got so good at his diet and so good at his exercise that he beat other people.

He always used to love when he would get the Man of the Week. He say, Oh,  sister Tess I’ve got the amount of a week. And he turned that around. But for me, the crowning thing was when he went to Nigeria and he set up an NGO called Awareness Saves Lives. And this was really about teaching people about diet and nutrition and  having a healthy lifestyle.

And it was not just about talking. He actually put his money where his mouth was. He would buy food products, he would buy all these things and he would actually go into the community into different villages and cook food for people. He would take food to sick people and  he would show them how to cook.

What was nutritious, how to avoid taking too many carbohydrates. And this was what he did. And he was doing this until the day he was sadly taken away in the hit and run incident. And so  he was really, for me a man of the people. He was a man of community. And he was international. He did this work in the UK. He did this work in Nigeria.And the world is a sadder place for him not being in it.

Paula: 00:08:37 Absolutely. It’s amazing that I have known Tony for as long as I’ve known you. But I didn’t know some of these things about him. Yeah.  Like the part his work in the community in Nigeria taking, the Nigerian staples and showing people how they could use it in ways that it could be healthy. Because many, a time those things are not documented.

We tend to know about calories and more westernized foods, but not really our own food. That’s that’s that’s great for me to know that. So we talked about him as a community leader and how he started these NGOs in Nigeria, as well as in the UK. Let’s talk about him and you’ve spoken about him as a brother. Let’s talk about him as a dad.

Tesse: 00:09:24 Oh, you can see. I have a big smile on my face because he played around with his kids a lot. He was a very present dad. And that involved taking his kids to school. Involve picking them up. It involved in baking for them. They baked together. It involved him cooking with them. It involved him playing games with them, being on the trampoline together, watching movies together.

He was ever so present and very tender and very funny. But at the same time, what I learned from. Tone was that he was always the person who would say, I’m your dad now we are friends. But when it comes to challenge, I will challenge you too. I will challenge you in love. We will look at our challenges together.

We’ll see how we can overcome them together. But he was the ever present, tender dad. He was very tender, very gentle. And also he believed in setting really firm boundaries for his kids. And it was just a joy to be with them. Auntie Tesse was around those kids and still is around the kids a lot. I Love them to bits.

Paula: 00:10:35 I know you do. I still recall that when I visited in 2018. It was late 2018. I remember  we got to his home about 11:00 PM. So the next morning when we got up there was breakfast waiting, but then what amazed me was the big backyard he had, and I said, no, I haven’t seen this in England. Especially in London. And he said, yes, that’s for the boys, to play football, or what is called soccer in the United States. And, I thought, wow, This is a first,

Tesse: 00:11:07 Yeah,  Paula, I’m sorry.

Paula: 00:11:11 No. I was just saying, I hadn’t seen such a big backyard in London. I’d seen it outside London, not in London itself. So that was very impressive.

Tesse: 00:11:21 Yeah. actually kept that deliberately, that space. He actually kept that for the boys to play. And I wanted to say, that, though many a flowerpot broken. Because if you had looked at the side, that the flower beds and things on the side, he and ”     ” his wife, they love gardening and all that. And they would have these beautiful flowers and the gnomes and everything. So some Noam heads came off and some pots were broken. But actually it’stayed that kind of place of nature. And then, compost heap and stuff like that, as well as the games. So it was a multi-purpose space.

But every time I go to the house, I find it so a healing environment. And that’s book to Tony, before. That their home was a kind of refuge. It was a soft place to be. Which was safe and which was really multidimensional in terms of the exercise, in terms of the diet, friendships and relationships.

And, I actually love clunking myself there because I found that I was privileged to be in a very holistic place where, I felt I could make myself at home. But also to see how, it was a relational space where people could rest and they could grow.

Paula: 00:12:38 Fantastic.  Tears are welling up in my eyes.  You talked about relationships. Do you want to talk about Tony, as a husband?

Tesse: 00:12:48 Yeah I think  Ufo would be the best test to talk about that. But what I saw was that he loves his wife. And he was her sweetheart and they did a lot of things together. That’s what I saw, but I think she’s best placed to say how good he was in a husband.

Paula: 00:13:04 What I meant as a husband was, you from the outside, looking at how he treated her. Many, a times I’m listening to a lot of young people who are  planning on settling down and they have so many criteria about what they want in a husband.  Sometimes when you look from the outside in, traits  in husbands that you say, Oh yes, I would love my daughter to meet a man like this, or  my niece. So that’s where it was coming from with that. But of course Ufo is the best person to talk about.

Tesse: 00:13:34 And what I would add to that is I’d say that he did believe in PDAs. And when I mean PDA, it’s not the old fashioned,digital thing that we used to have years ago. It’s very much in public displays of affection. So he never let anybody, guessed that he loved his wife. He showed it. . He held hands. He kissed his wife. But also, he came across to me as somebody who was very gentle. And it wasn’t like you and I, it was, we. It was we together. And, he would take his wife breakfast in bed and all of those kinds of things. It wasn’t only on Valentine’s Day. And he would have cooking competitions.

And he always won.  Much to his wife’s annoyance. , But he was the Baker. He was one that would bake the cakes and stuff like that. And she did the ”     ” rice and stuff like that. So in relation to what I saw, I just saw a couple that were very happy together and forgave each other when things went, not so well as they do, but also who enjoyed the good times together and opened their house to people to enjoy it with them

Paula: 00:14:36 So Tony leaves, I know a big vacuum in all of your lives . But what I’d say too is , though he’s gone, there’s something good that’s going to come out of this.  That leads me to my question of what legacy has he left?

Tesse: 00:14:54 Oh that’s a brilliant question. And I think I’m going to divide it into two really.

And the first thing I would say, she’s characteristics as a leader. Because for me  he actually lived leadership.  And he actually taught me the importance of being as well. So doing and being, thinking and feeling. For me, he epitomizes all that sort of stuff. So for me, he was a person who woul lift people up.

He was a  person who was authentic. For me, he was the kind of person that would do things even when people were not looking. And that’s leadership. Who are you when nobody’s looking? How do you deal with fear? How do you deal with failures? He was himself. And he actually led from the inside out, not from the outside, in. In many ways he was a humble person.

He just did things in his own characteristically happy, funny way. And he did them. Humbly had a lot of compassion, He had a spirit that was open and welcoming to everyone. You talked about him on the food and everybody got that. Everybody got the food, everybody got that welcome. He did that and he did it naturally.

He had a vision. He actually saw the big picture. He saw the things that were impossible, but could be made possible with a different kinds of application. He was able to focus on what really mattered. And he also was able to focus on important matters and prioritize things like justice, like mercy, like faithfulness.

He had this big thing about fighting for justice for people, social justice. He was the champion of poor people. He was able to demonstrate faithfulness in the family and for others. He was able to be concerned for the issues that mattered to other people. Because if they mattered to other people it mattered to him.

He was able to see the tears of people and put smiles on their faces. And he did this with a twinkle in his eye. He was mischievous and he was funny. He was honest. He was humble. And he was concerned more about others than he was about himself. And he was extremely generous.

Tony would take the coat off his back and give it to someone else. He was a very generous person, generous to a fault. He would take off the shoes from his feet and give it to someone else. And I think that combined with his incredible sense of duty was actually amazing and very exemplary.

I would say that he was a global citizen in every sense of the word. He inspired people. He was a role model to a lot of people. He was able to bring their morale up. He was able to encourage them to do something different by himself, going the extra mile. And he was able to support and facilitate people to put their best foot forward so that they could be their best selves.

And the world was a better place because people had met Tony. He went to exceptional lengths to put other people in front, even though he was behind. And for me, he will lead a legacy of leadership.

But he also would lead a legacy of kindness. Because in the dark moments, and in the dark places, he was able to bring light into those dark places. And for me, it is important that legacy of kindness is something that really shines through. That we can be kind to each other. We leave a very strong footprint with kindness. We lose nothing  We gain everything by being kind, compassionate, empathetic, and connected to people around us and to causes that make a difference.

Paula: 00:18:28 Wow.  As you said, all of that, Tesse it came to me that you and Tony  share very similar characteristics. And one thing that both of you share is you’re great with words. You’re great with taking words and making them come to life.  I’ve always said you’re such a great writer and orator and speaker as Tony was.

So I can’t let us close without asking for a quote that you think about when you think about Tony.  What quote comes to mind?

Tesse: 00:19:03 Yeah, I’m paraphrasing this. So this, when I think of Tony, I think of this, that he would say things like: “Good men and women look at things or issues or concerns; things that can happen, and will say, Why?” He says: “Great and exceptional men and women dream dreams, see visions, look at the impossible, and they say, Why not?” He was a visionary. And for him, nothing was impossible. If we had the, will the commitment and the connection to make it happen. And that’s what comes to my mind. “Great things. Why not?”

Paula: 00:19:46 I love that. “Great things. Why not?” And talking about “Great things. Why not?” we’re now on TesseTalks. There’s something that Tony told you that has led you to thinking beyond TesseTalks. Can you talk about that?

Tesse: 00:20:02 This is an amazing thing.  And Tony had a conversation with me . And this turned out to be the last conversation. At the time I didn’t know that it was going to be our last conversation.

And he says to me – cause he called me sister Tess – and he said, sister Tess, he said, you know what? There’s nothing that we go through in our lives, no matter how sad that people haven’t gone through before, or people are not going through.

And said I’m really glad that you talked about what is happening with TesseTalks. However   , I think that you should set up a space and a place for people to come and tell their stories. And those stories will encourage others who hear them, that they are not alone. They’re never alone. And there will be places where people can go to, can be in, can stay with, without judgment. These are places where people will feel safe to share, to care, to connect and to have compassion.

And he said that.  And  I didn’t know, that was his last conversation with me. And I said okay brosky – cause that’s what I called him – okay brosky. I’m going to set up another podcast called TesseLeads. And that was how  TesseLeads was born as a podcast.

Paula: 00:21:35 Many times when  we have a conversation  with others, we don’t know what is being birthed. And so from hearing you say that TesseLeads, which is your other podcast, it’s being birthed from Tony’s words…   Tony’s passing is  about to bring about something even more phenomenal.

The birth of another podcast that is going to celebrate and talk about relationships. Because TesseLeads is about relationships, not about personal development or professional development. That’s TesseTalks.  We’re using this platform to talk about how TesseLeads, which is Tesse’s other  podcast is going to be birthed. Tony has left a big legacy and that legacy is going to live on through TesseLeads.

As we’re wrapping up TesseTalks and we’re talking about the birth of TesseLeads. Is there anything else that you want to talk about? About Tony. Is there a call to action? Where can people find out more about Tony and the life he left?

Tesse: 00:22:46 Tony’s daughter, Kimberly, Akpeki, established a webpage for Tony. And this web page, which is  for life really, can be found at www.forevermissed.com/anthony-akpeki/ and people can view it or they can leave comments. And you just want to keep Tony alive. Because  in death we need to remember the lessons that he shared. And he shared it and he cared in a way that was real. And for me, he was just the best. He was simply the best.

And  what I think of is that wonderful song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” which is by The Hollies. It’s my favorite song. And for me, Tony was never heavy. He was always my brother.

Paula: 00:23:44 And that says it all. That says it’s all about Tony. As I  have said to Tesse, Tony is gone, but not forgotten. And we’ll always keep Tony in our hearts. He will live on.  We encourage all of you who are listening to this to find out more about this Tony Akpeki that we’re talking about. Visit the website – www.forevermissed.com/anthony-akpeki/ – same last name as Tesse, to discover the brother, the husband, the community leader, the father, the dad, the friend that left this world in December of 2020, but still lives on in our hearts.

And for our listeners, we want to ask you to head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else, where you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a raving review. And if you have questions or a topic, you’d like us to cover, related to leadership and governance, send us a note.  Remember, it can be personal as well as professional. If you want to be a guest on the show,  please head over to www.TesseAkpeki.com/TesseTalks to apply.

Thank you all. For being our wonderful listeners, Tesse, we love you. .