After six years of peering out the windows of the Knightdale High football press box and screaming “What number was that?” at Tony Minori, who was always seated within whispering distance, it was hard not to miss him at the Knights’ season kickoff against Sanderson on Aug. 22.
I learned minutes after that game started and in upsetting fashion that the volunteer statistician for the Knights had passed away the day before at the age of 49 after battling a rare brain disease called Moyamoya.
In the local sports realm, Minori was a lot more than a dedicated preserver of Knightdale’s gridiron activity, although he seemed as fit for that role as a professional bookkeeper.
He was a fixture in the Knightdale High community as a parent to three daughters, Meg (Knightdale Class of 2010), Allie (2012) and Nicki (2015). He was even a cheer dad at one point, and hosted annual year-end meals for the football team at his home.
But he was also a proponent for children outside his household as an 11-plus year volunteer with the Consolidated Football Federation, the five-county regional Pop Warner organization. He began as a treasurer for one of the federation’s affiliates, and eventually became treasurer and secretary at the federation level.
“Most people build houses,” said Minori’s wife, Joanne. “Me and Tony always said we build kids.”
Minori’s wife and daughters and other family members attended the Aug. 29 game against Millbrook, where head coach Cedric Dargan presented the family with a Knightdale football helmet signed by all members of the team in honor of Minori’s contributions to the program.
“It certainly summed up all his years he spent at Knightdale,” Joanne said of the gift. “He spent all his life in service, particularly in service to kids. Especially given it’s Nicki’s senior year and he won’t be there, that helmet is in her room and it reminds her (of him) every day.”
I was honored to have Joanne introduce me to several family members dropping by the press box as Minori’s Friday night football crew buddy. I always considered him a great friend, and in the hastiness of the game-tracking process I’m not really sure I ever took the time to let him know that. I wish I had. He was delightful to be around.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to a Pop Warner scholarship fund established in Minori’s name – the Tony Minori Memorial Scholarship Fund, Pop Warner Mid-South Region, 5812 Dean Ave. in Raleigh, 27616.
“Even in his death, he will continue to serve the children in the Pop Warner organization – (an organization) that says as much about athletics as it does academics, which is why we got involved,” Joanne said.