Tony Adams, who was the on-air sports director at Channel 3 WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt., from 1954 to 1989 and was five times named Vermont Sports Broadcaster of the Year, died Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at Allenwood assisted-living facility in South Burlington. He was 94 years old.
He had lived independently until November 2019, when he began to experience cognitive decline. The immediate cause of death has been ruled acute respiratory infection.
Born Antonio Adamis on Sept. 3, 1925, in Manchester, N.H., he was the son of Greek-American immigrants, Demetrios Hatzi-Adamis and Stella (Stavranopoulos), and was the youngest of three children.
Tony grew up poor and never forgot it. His father worked in a laundry for 25 cents per hour and his mother was a homemaker. He empathized with those who had to do without and was notoriously tight with a dime. In his youth during the Great Depression, his family was on welfare, then called "relief." He recalled lugging up three flights of stairs to his family's tenement flat the cans of kerosene that were distributed to needy families for heating.
Having lived in an immigrant community in Manchester, he knew little English when he entered first grade.
He loved sports from an early age, particularly baseball. He and two classmates would go to the city library after school to read out-of-town newspapers for the box scores of Major League Baseball games. He sold afternoon newspapers on the street corners of Manchester to earn the money needed to buy his family's first radio. He wanted the radio to listen to play-by-play accounts of the games of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals on KMOX radio, of St. Louis, which could be heard nationwide at night.
His parents died before he reached adulthood.
Skipping one grade during his schooling, he graduated third in his class at Manchester Central High School in the commercial course of study to which he had been directed by guidance counselors. Acutely self-conscious of the shortcomings of his education, he was a voracious reader throughout his life, particularly drawn to history and biography, as well as philosophy. He was for more than 20 years a trustee of the Brownell Library in Essex Junction, Vt.
His first broadcast job was as a control room operator at WMUR-AM (now WGIR) in Manchester. When an announcer failed to show up for his shift, the station manager told him he was to go on the air for the first time, but with one condition -- no Greek name was allowed to be used by an on-air personality. Thereafter, he was known professionally as Tony Adams.
He married Maria (Mary) Chakas, whom he had met in first grade, in August 1947.
After a short stint as sports director at WFDF-AM in Flint, Mich., Tony landed a sports announcing job at WCAX-AM radio (later WVMT) in Burlington in 1951. When the company added television on Sept. 26, 1954, he was on air that evening with the station's first sports report.
In 1960, he memorably was filmed taking a fall and breaking his hip while doing a first-person series on how easy it was to learn how to ski. The footage was not exactly a boon to the fledgling Vermont ski industry.
Because his sports segment over the years proved able to hold a loyal audience, his nightly sports show, which for many years he wrote and edited on his own, was at one-time the longest sports show in the country, at 18 minutes, among CBS affiliates. This allowed him to make regular, extended interviews a part of his show. Among the sports celebrities he interviewed were Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Arnold Palmer, Pete Rose and Howard Cosell. Among others he interviewed were Ronald Reagan, who appeared in Burlington for General Electric during the 1950s, and, during the 1960 campaign for president, John F. Kennedy.
His first love professionally, however, was radio play-by-play and he took as many jobs as he could juggle over the years, including University of Vermont football, basketball, hockey and baseball; St. Michael's basketball; and Dartmouth College football, as well as many high school games.
He was such a constant presence for so many years in living rooms across the state that perhaps a majority of Vermonters of a certain age felt they knew him personally wherever he went.
He retired as sports director in 1989, but continued for many years as host of the "Across the Fence" television show, which was produced and broadcast by WCAX in cooperation with Cooperative Extension.
His wife, Mary, died in 1990 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In his semi-retirement, he continued to do radio play-by-play, including UVM women's basketball and St. Michael's College men's basketball, and volunteered at Fletcher Allen/UVM Medical Center hospitals, contributing more than 17,000 volunteer hours. He also traveled widely, for many years making two or three overseas sightseeing trips annually.
Having become a fitness runner in the early 1960s, he continued to run 2-3 miles daily and to play tennis until he fell and broke his shoulder while jogging on the UVM track at age 88.
After retiring from "Across the Fence," he was proud to be the WCAX "mail boy," making post office runs daily for the station into his nineties.
He served four consecutive terms as president of the Vermont Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and was inducted into the sports halls of fame at the University of Vermont, St. Michael's College, and Norwich University. He was an inaugural member of both the Vermont Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.
Survivors include daughter Stephanie Woodley and son-in-law Harry Woodley, of Laconia, N.H.; grand-daughter Sophia Woodley, of Oxford, England; son Tony Adamis and daughter-in-law Charlotte Adamis, of Kingston, N.Y.; and step-grandsons Max Bruhn and Harrison Bruhn, of New York City.
In addition to his wife, he was predeceased by an infant son, James, and sisters Irene Adamis and Vasilike Adamis, both of Manchester, N.H.
He arranged -- through Corbin & Palmer Funeral Home, of Essex Jct., Vt., -- for his remains be donated to The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine, of Burlington, Vt., followed by cremation, and directed that no funeral service be held. Fitting, perhaps, for a man whose signature phrase was his pithy sign-off: "Good night, good sports."
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