Naples Firefighter remembers everyone’s ‘big brother’ during private viewing

Loved ones trickled in and out of Gendron Funeral Home in Fort Myers Thursday to pay their respects to Naples Firefighter Anthony “Tony” Christensen, who died of COVID-19 Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Christensen received treatment for the coronavirus for more than a month before his death after contacting it on the job.

We spoke to Naples Firefighter Garrett Ocana who said Tony was his best friend, a gentle giant and like a big brother to him.

When we spoke to Ocana, strength was also a word used a lot to describe Tony, and it was his strength that everyone channeled during his viewing and will continue to embody during Tony’s funeral Saturday.

“Fighter” is in the job description for people like Tony, but no one thought his fight would end like this.

“Knew he was going to attack it just like he did anything in life, even on the job,” Ocana said. “He was going to give it his all.”

Ocana told us it was his honor to fight alongside Christensen. He was one of many from Naples Fire-Rescue to stand watch outside his comrade’s window at NHC.

They held their signs high, letting Christensen know it’s OK to not feel strong because it was their turn to be strong for him.

But after 30 days of hoping to recover from the virus, Tony died. Still, Ocana refuses to remember the end, choosing to treasure the beginning.

“I started in 2015, and, immediately, big brother Tony took me under his wing just like he did every other firefighter,” Ocana said.

With a strong voice and big heart, Christensen appointed himself mentor to the new men and women in the fire department.

Thursday, family and close friends hugged and shared memories. Everyone is still in disbelief that he’s gone.

“Tony would not want us to give up, you know. So we’re definitely going to take it day-by-day and keep coming together and be as strong as ever for Tony,” Ocana said.

Clearly, Tony Christensen was the type of man who made everyone feel important and special.

“We said Tony strong, and he really was a strong person,” Ocana said. “So, in his honor, we’re going to keep going and showing up to work every day and proving something for Tony.”

Saturday’s procession for Tony, from Gendron Funeral Home to Cambier Park, is scheduled to be released by Naples Fire-Rescue either sometime Thursday night or Friday.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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