A Leader ~ A Champion ~ My Friend
January 12, 1960 – May 24, 2015
My name is Mark Andrews, Founder/Executive Director of Therapeutic Adventures a non- profit 501(c)(3). Toney was a dear friend of mine and I have been blessed to know him for 33+ years. We shared many important life adventures together. I speak for everyone here today when I say that while we are all deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend Toney, we are forever grateful for the way that he touched our hearts.
How do you measure the quality of someone’s life? I would suggest that you do so by looking at how much they accomplish with the gifts they’ve received from GOD. Overcoming traumatic spinal cord injury is one of the toughest cards to be dealt in the game of life. While there certainly are many obstacles, medical and psycho-social challenges along the way, these bumps in the road NEVER prevented Toney from living a full and remarkable life.
When Toney was tired, he found strength. When he had reason to be sad, he found happiness. When most people would give up, he found the hope and persistence to keep moving forward. When he had reason to be scared, he found courage. But most of all, he was guided by FAITH and LOVE. It has been suggested by many that Peter was recognized as a fisher of men. I would suggest that Toney may have been selected as one of God’s disciples of joy!
It is with absolute conviction and confidence that I say Toney Lineberry is one of God’s greatest creations. GOD did some of his greatest work after Toney had his near fatal car crash back when he was in high school. Toney’s gift was his ability to bring joy to those around him – By his example, he would motivate people, giving them a desire to achieve more than they thought was possible.
Toney’s presence when you were with him one on one, in a small room of people, or in a giant auditorium was the same. He captivated the everyone with his passion and his message. Toney was a very soft-spoken, humble, charismatic, and caring advocate for the disabled. He was teacher to all whom he met. When Toney would roll into a room, his smile would captivate the audience putting everyone at ease eager to hear his message. I am confident that Toney had a smile that could melt the snow off the highest mountains.
We all have a vivid image and familiarity with business logos and icons – Apple, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google to name a few. When you think about the importance of seatbelt safety for the prevention of serious spinal cord injury – the logo or icon, if you will, is “Buckle Up For Toney.”
Yes, Toney was a well-rounded man. He was an author, a professor, a lawyer, and a motivational speaker. Over his life, Toney had many achievements accolades and awards. Toney received an award from the Governor of Virginia. He was recognized for his lifelong work with the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration.
Toney was recognized as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA). He was proud to carry the Olympic Torch on its way to Salt Lake City in 2002. Toney earned his law degree from the University of Virginia which is certainly a major accomplishment. But it is even more impressive considering he commuted round trip to and from Manikin to Charlottesville every day to go to classes. He received countless other civic honors – but I can tell you the two honors that meant the most to him was being a son to his mother and a father to his kids.
Toney was a wonderful brother, uncle, and husband. In recent years, Toney always spoke of two things when we had our conversations. First, he spoke of how much it meant to him to be able to care for his mother. He said, Mark, my momma was ALWAYS there to care for me. Now that her health has changed it’s such an honor for me and a joy to be able to spend time with her and care for her. Second, the other thing that would always come up was his kids “the triplets” – Amanda, Anthony, and Don. Whether you were in the room with him or far away on the telephone you could just feel how proud he was of his three kids. He would go on and on about how smart they were and how good they were in school and how talented they were. And, while Toney would never admit, or for that matter, take credit for it, I am confident that it was the way that he lived his life as role model, and as a father that made Amanda, Anthony, and Don the wonderful adults that they have grown up to be.
I fondly hold close to my heart the times I shared with Toney. Over the years, we camped together, sailed together, hand cycled, and skied together. I remember lying in our sleeping bags in a tent and Toney shared with some of his most private and cherished thoughts about life, love, and family. The smile on his face when he was captain of a sailboat is one that will never go away. The smile when he looked down the mountain from the summit of one of Massanutten’s black diamond ski slopes is etched in my brain. Toney was one of the first quadriplegics in the country to snow ski and certainly the first in the southeast to ski black diamond slopes.
Therapeutic Adventures recently received a gift from the Virginia Spinal Cord Injury Group. In honor of Toney, we are going to allocate some of those funds to go to the Toney Lineberry Memorial Scholarship Fund. This will provide financial support so that individuals can experience the same joy and benefits that Toney experienced when he participated in our adaptive sports and adventure programs.
We never really understand why things in life happen the way they do. While we may try, it is best to realize that the “bigger plan” that GOD has for us will only be better when we are in heaven. Everything that you like is better beyond all belief! Now how great is that? And, you can do ALL things that you have never done but always imagined!
My life is better because my dear friend, Toney was a major part of it. He shaped and influenced who I am as a person, and for that I will be forever grateful.