June 27, 2022 | Life Story
Legacy Place has had the privilege of caring for some beautiful brothers and sisters who have been an excellent example for us in their unwavering faith and loyalty to Jehovah. As we sat and interviewed Tony, we couldn’t help but feel moved by the experiences of this wonderful loyal brother. We hope you enjoy his life story as much as we did.
“My name is Anthony Gallina, and everybody calls me Tony.” That introduces us to this lovable man who will turn a hundred this year.
Tony’s father was introduced to the truth when he attended a convention in Washington DC. That’s when he decided that he wanted to be one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Tony’s mother studied too and “was a fighter for the truth,” as Tony puts it. It was her fine example and love for the truth that moved Tony and his brother to make the truth their own.
Tony dedicated his life by baptism in August of 1942. Little did he know then that his faith would be tested severely shortly after.
On September 16, 1940, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft. Talking about that time in history, a Watchtower article said:
“This meant that the American witnesses withstood one of the hottest periods of persecution of Christians in the annals of modern history. From 1933, when figures of arrests began to be kept by the Watch Tower Society, up to 1951 where the aftermath of persecution due to military service requirements still continued, there is record of 18,886 individual arrests.”
– w55 10/1 pp. 588-591
It was at this time during the heat of persecution that Tony found himself with a letter from the government summoning him to be inducted into the army. Tony had a difficult decision to make.
Tony recalls the timely help he received from a brother, Earl Thomas. “He got down on his one knee,” recalls Tony. “And I’ll never forget this, he said ‘Tony, all you have to ask yourself is – what do you want? Do you want to live, or do you want to die? If you want to live, you’ve got to serve Jehovah … otherwise, you may die and never have Jehovah’s blessings.'”
That was exactly what Tony needed. “Well, I love life, so I wanted to live,” he says. Tony chose the real life and decided that he was not going to go to the army.
Tony’s mind was made up, but the government wouldn’t let up on the pressure. When he appeared before the district attorney, he was given a clear choice: “You have a choice, there’s only two things – you either join the army or the navy or you go to prison.” Tony stood firm in his decision and was sentenced to Moyamensing prison in Philadelphia for 37 days and then transferred to Petersburg, Virginia in 1943.
The pressure didn’t end there. After two weeks in quarantine, Tony was called before a hearing officer, Mr. Higbie. After painting a beautiful picture of life in the army and an equally horrifying picture of the dire consequences of refusing military service, the officer gave him a choice: “Anthony all you’d have to do is sign the papers here and you’re free to go to either the army or the navy.”
Tony recalls his answer to him: “So I looked at him and he looked at me and I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Mr. Higbie, I came in here as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and I am leaving as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’”
How did Tony feel about his decision? “I felt real good about it,” he says. “I really felt good about it.”
Tony was released from prison in 1946 and started a job with a block company. Little did he know that his life would be taking another interesting turn. It was at the Glad Nations Convention in Cleveland, Ohio where Tony would meet his wife, Hilda.
That memory of seeing Hilda for the first time is forever locked in Tony’s memory: “I remember she had a polka dot dress on, she had a ring of pearls around her neck, she had white shoes, strap shoes. She was the kind of picture that I fell in love with. Just like that, yeah …”
Tony and Hilda dated for 10 months and then got married. Tony will ever be grateful to Jehovah for his wife: “He sure blessed me because she was a pearl. A great prize, she took away a lot of fears away from me.” Tony and Hilda had 2 children and 5 grandchildren who bring him immense joy.
With Hilda by his side as a support, Tony gave his all to Jehovah. He remembers his very first talk: “Before I knew it, I had responsibilities in the Emmaus Congregation. I gave my first talk, and I was really nervous. I was so nervous I almost fell though the floor!”
Nerves wouldn’t stop Tony though and he fondly looks back at all the talks that he gave throughout his years of service. Many of us will recollect the joyful marriages he performed and his comforting words at funeral talks. He was appointed as the presiding overseer for the Allentown West Congregation and was asked to take charge of remodeling the Kingdom Hall, which used to be a civic theatre. The Kingdom Hall he helped build is still being used today.
Tony has helped with many construction projects, served faithfully in the congregation, and had a full share in the ministry. A recent Watchtower article summed up his life this way:
“Over the years, Tony served in three congregations as the presiding overseer (now known as the coordinator of the body of elders) and as a circuit assembly overseer. He conducted meetings and Bible studies at a state prison. At 98, Tony is not ready to take it easy. He keeps doing his very best to serve Jehovah and to work closely with the local congregation!”
– w21 September pp. 2-7
Talking about how he felt about the assignments he was asked to do in all these years, Tony shares a valuable lesson: “Whenever a privilege was given to me, I said yes, I would do it. And sometimes it was overloading but at the end always turned out to be the right thing I did, and I experienced a lot of joy from it.”
Tony has been with us in Legacy Place since August 2018. Tony continues to give his all to Jehovah despite the limitations of old age and the loss of his wife. You will find him busy with letter witnessing and encouraging others in the home. His zeal for the ministry still burns brightly. “When I’m in bed I think about the new world, and I think about the hailstone messages… if there’s door-to-door work to be done, I wanna be a part of it! Yeah, I have my bag ready to go.”
Tony’s humor, respect for others, and deep love for Jehovah have made him well loved and appreciated in the home and by everyone who knows him. He is truly what the Bible refers to as “gifts in men.”
Find out what he wants to do in the new world, what was involved in building the Allentown Kingdom Hall, and more in this video!