Tony Perolio Fit A Lifetime of Accomplishment into His 30 Years

Tony Perolio, October 6 1981-January 25 2012.
Tony Perolio, October 6 1981-January 25 2012.

Anthony Perolio was a Marine, a gifted drummer, an engineer, an athlete, a leukemia survivor, a loving husband and the father of two joyous poodles. His on-paper accomplishments, though varied and many, pale in comparison to who Tony was when he woke up every morning and went to sleep every night -- a kind, wonderful person who gave amazing hugs and never saw a face he didn't smile at.

Tony died on January 25, 2012 at the age of 30. He is survived by his wife Jessica, his parents, Steve and Connie, his sister Andrea and half-brother Adam. A visitation will be held on Monday, January 30 and a funeral service will follow on Tuesday at the Journey Church.

In November 2006, Tony was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and was told he had days to live. He underwent a stem cell transplant in May 2007 that beat the cancer. He completed an engineering degree at Washington University and got engaged to the love of his life in 2008. In January 2009, he was diagnosed with GVHD, or graft-versus-host-disease, where the body fights against the transplant. Though common in transplant patients, Tony's GVHD was out of the ordinary, confounding some of the top oncologists in the nation. In September 2011, he was told that his health would continue to dissipate without drastic measures. He re-entered Barnes-Jewish Hospital in January 2012 for chemotherapy and treatment and spent his final days surrounded by his family, friends and devoted wife.

Louis Wall met Tony in the fourth grade in Chesterfield. Wall had just moved to St. Louis and said he hated it until he met Tony, a fellow disciple of R.E.M. and soccer. They were best friends for twenty years, and Tony was part of the reason Wall became a drummer. Twice, Wall shaved his head in support of his best friend going in for more chemo.

"Early on we decided, we always talked about reaching the limits of human potential. He took everything to the limit. He was excited to experience every aspect of life. He made an incredible amount of friends and lived an incredible life that was so full. And for 30 years, it was more full than somebody's life at 80 or 90 years old," says Wall.

In life, Tony didn't meet a challenge he couldn't conquer. He didn't just become a Marine, he was the best sniper in his battalion. Wall says when Tony retired from the Marines, he and Tony took a roadtrip. It was supposed to be two weeks long, but Tony cut it short because he was too excited to get back to St. Louis and dive headlong back into civilian life.

"He decided that he wanted to experience everything else in life, all at once. So he got home and did that," says Wall.

Tony didn't want the decorated Marine part of his life to define him, so after a tour in Iraq, he went to school, joined a band and met a girl. Tony began his engineering studies at University of Missouri-St. Louis and got to talking with classmate Shaun Lee about music. Though he'd been away from the kit for years, Tony joined Jon Hardy and the Public in 2005, and he was quickly able to fill in for the already established band.

"I remember being impressed at how well prepared he was. He made sure to let me know that he had done his homework in learning our songs," says Jon Hardy, lead singer of Jon Hardy and the Public. "Tony wanted to leave behind his best. He didn't wear that on his sleeve or demand applause for it, but over the last six years I learned that about him and I learned it from him."

"I smile when I remember the first days of tracking for Working In Love," says Hardy. "Tony, just weeks out of leukemia treatment but right there. Fingerless gloves and a winter hat and right there. The whole time. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to work and play with Tony. Being in his life made me a better man."

There's a smile in Wall's voice as he describes Tony meeting Jessica Krusemark at Upper Limits rock climbing gym. Tony was working there at the time, and the story goes that he was "basically stalking her and being really creepy."

"He just wanted to meet girls, and when he saw her, he lost his shit and was gushing to me about her. I knew she had to have been something special. He didn't even know her that well...come to find out, she's one of the most amazing women I've ever met," Wall says. They were married in 2009.

"[He] had an amazing woman to love; it's so fortunate that he found her. That's the only aspect where I'm like, 'Man, I wish they had more time as this awesome couple,'" Wall says.

Tony kept up his studies despite his illness, managing to earn his master's degree in structural engineering from Washington University in December 2011. Wall was awed by Tony's incredible strength and his accomplishments.

"That level of brutality that he went through, most people wouldn't be able to sit through it," Wall says. "The doctors confirmed it. They were so amazed that he wasn't passed out or had fallen down 30 times with the little oxygen he was getting. He was walking around his apartment, spending hours alone; it was unbelievable how strong he was."

When he became too ill to play drums on stage, Tony took to the Internet, posting videos of himself playing drum covers of his favorite songs. His YouTube page has 646,779 views.

"Tony and I always said there are no guarantees," Wall says. "Everything in life is a bonus. Tony was my bonus."

Visitation Monday, January 30, 2012 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Kutis Funeral Home 2906 Gravois Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63118

Funeral Service Tuesday, January 31 11:15 a.m. The Journey Church 2833 S. Kingshighway Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63139

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