Anthony (Tony) Benson Commander passed away from cancer Saturday, August 20, 2016 at the Oregon Veteran’s Home. Tony was born March 16, 1950 at The Dalles General Hospital to Walter Graham Commander and Grace Glendia Commander (Benson).
Tony grew up in the Chenowith area where he attended grade school and then Wahtonka High School for two years. The family moved closer to town where Tony graduated from The Dalles High School, class of ‘68. After high school he worked at the Maupin Mill and then was drafted into the Army in 1970.
Tony served in Vietnam as a helicopter door gunner/crew chief with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company. His company was assigned to the Americal Division in Chu Lai, Vietnam, and participated in Operation Lam Son 719, flying South Vietnamese soldiers into Laos in spring 1971. He was a decorated veteran, awarded the Army Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Tony returned home in 1971.
Following his service in Vietnam, Tony worked in construction, then moved to Alaska in 1975 to work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Project in Valdez, Alaska. In the early ‘80s Tony worked on the Bonneville Dam’s second powerhouse.
He returned to Alaska in the mid-80s, and worked a variety of construction jobs throughout the state, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. In the construction off-season he taught at the Laborer’s Training School in Anchorage, teaching asbestos/hazardous waste removal.
In a career that spanned almost 20 years, Tony worked at various military sites in Alaska and the South Pacific, including Midway and Guam, removing asbestos and hazardous waste.
He enjoyed attending reunions of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) and the Americal Division. He attended the 2015 VHPA Reunion at the Arlington Dedication in Washington, D.C. In early July of this year Tony attended the VHPA reunion in Reno, Nev.
The Philippines was a favorite travel destination for Tony and his wife, Evelyn. They spent many happy times with her family in Cebu City, and with Tony’s cousin Don Heard in Dumaguete.
In March 2015, Tony and Evelyn were present for ceremonies honoring the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Cebu from Japanese occupation during World War II. The amphibious landing of the Americal Division on the shores of Talisay Beach was reenacted, complete with a mock naval bombardment. Also present were members of the Americal Division Veterans Association, local dignitaries and leaders of the Philippine military.
Tony was a certified SCUBA instructor and especially enjoyed diving on sunken warships in the South Pacific. He was an avid collector of memorabilia from the Civil War, WWI and WWII. Tony also loved vintage cars, trucks and tractors – with a passion for restoration. He enjoyed going to classic car-related swap meets and participated in local car shows.
Tony was a disabled veteran, lifetime member of VFW Post 10252, Anchorage, Alaska, and a member of American Legion Post 19, The Dalles. He was also a retired member of Laborer’s Local 341, Anchorage, Alaska.
Tony is survived by his wife of 16 years, Evelyn Commander (Montebon); his daughters Terra Commander (Ryan) and Tiffany Whillans (Ian); grandchildren Berrin and Theodore Hill and Odin Whillans all of The Dalles; brothers Jerry Commander (Loretta) of The Dalles and Lloyd Commander (Paula) of Pendleton; sister Betsy Place (Greg) of The Dalles; niece Lisa Commander (Adam) and nephews Graham and Jacob Place of The Dalles; extended family Jessika Magnett of Portland, Elana Cranston of The Dalles and numerous cousins and friends. Tony’s beloved rescue cats Mango and Snoopy provided much comfort in between hospital stays.
Tony was preceded in death by his parents and beloved infant sister, Cherie Ann.
A memorial service for family, friends and others whose lives were touched by Tony, will be held at The Dalles Civic Auditorium, Saturday, September 10 at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to Columbia Gorge Cat Rescue or The Dalles Civic Auditorium.
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