propositions press 2.1 ... moving through the corridors of the radical midwest ... vq memories: tony, i hardly knew ye - propositions press... 2.0

« from the we are wisconsin book release | Main | thinking about a button »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Lane Hall


This is a powerful narrative. Those times in our lives are very intense - an intensity amplified in contexts like VQ. Sad about Zasa. I read about his arrest, and the hurt it caused in the VQ community.Imagine what it did to his family.

After college, at a similar time in my life, I worked at a "second chance" African American (CETA funded, for any oldtimers!) highschool in south Chicago (the old stomping ground of the Black Panthers a generation before). I taught High School English, though mostly it was fundamental literacy. I'll never forget sitting across from a guy who had been to prison for killing a rival gang member and going through phonemes. Cat, Rat, Bat, Hat... Every few days. Often the kids - with the attention we could give - went a number of grade levels in reading comprehension, regardless of where they started. A number of the guys had maps of scars on their bodies, knife wounds, gunshot wounds, fight wounds. They were between 16 and 21, and some looked like they had been through the worst kind of urban warfare you could imagine. (And this was before Crack hit the streets and intensified the stakes!)

In the springtime, gunshots would echo through the neighborhood. I was protected by having good relationships with the kids, and the word was out to leave my little red VW Superbeetle alone.

While these dramatic things (violence, threat, decay) are the stories we tell, the ones that are generally untold are the small successes. Learning to read. Going on to community college. Getting a decent job (there were some back then). Coming back proud from a stint in the military (this experience altered my perceptions of military service).

Or the small daily gestures, like a quiet and shy young man who would walk 6 miles out of the way (a wide circumference rather than a straight line) to get to school, rather than go through hostile gang territory.

And what you say is very true. Many of these kids would do anything for you, once you had their respect.

And what you say is also true: the burnout rate is high. I lasted a year, then went back to carpentry, then (as you mention) back to grad school. Ahhh, how patterned we are, and how determined, via the situation we are born into, the set of patterns available to us!

Take care!

Danette Lewis-Robinson

I am shocked and saddened at the same time I remember him from the 80's when I was a VQ kid! I just hope this doesn't put a damper on anyone else in the program you must remain strong. I really feel for his family I am truly in shock!!

Katy Seals

Thank you, Dan. This is excellent.


Lane, great story. The South Side has produced plenty of tough kids over the generations. Some of them even went on to become mayors!

Danette, I'm in shock as well. Crazy. We're talking about Tony Zasa, not just any staff, or just any SPS! I would love to someday know more about how it all came to be. What would take a guy like that in such a direction? I feel terrible for his wife, she was so sweet.

Katy, you are welcome.

Butch Porter

There never will be an adaquate explaination for what people do and why. except for that addictive need for (as we called it in Vietnam "the taste of brass") Look it up. Vision Quest had it's rock start and questionable actions, I do know that a mistake does not define someone. It is what he has accompliched in his lifetime. I of all people know this. And Tony Zasa was one of the most stand up people I have ever met. He did everything and went anywhere he was asked. He changed more lives that,I know, I can count. I have always been proud to be his friend. Only he knows the reason for this time of weakness. But he is a good man and his family were tknow the ones who really suffered. I know that after 20 some years in VQ, and the thousands of friends he made. He was erased from the records. Judge and ye will be judged. He was my friend and will always be my friend.

Thomas Conger

Well I'm always glad to see people still talking about The VisionQuest Program after all these years! By the way, Hello Butch Porter, very well said. I was a kid in VisionQuest, matter a fact I was the youngest kid, only ten years of age. I guess you can say that I was a VQ baby since they were the ones who brought me up into my mid teens. Back in 1980 Pat Reese and Skip Woodrow were the staff who interviewed me while I was in Juvenile detention. The experience was unforgettable and it will always be apart of my life. I went on the wagon train that went over the Red Mountain Pass in Colorado (elevation of 11,000 feet), I'm surprised none of us got killed, like going off a cliff or something, but it was an amazing defeat and one day I'd like to go back there and drive that mountain road just to relive the memory. I came very close to a lot of the staff in VQ, Pat, Skip, Mary Harper, Ken Egglston (Eggy), Sue Woods, Don Barns, Big Howie, Bob Burton and many others. Yes I do remember Zasa, he was around in my time. I heard many great things about that man, and just like myself, we all make mistakes. In fact I know many things about the history of VisionQuest and some of it isnt very pretty let me assure you. But it's always been about the kids and even the staff who endured the same mental and physical pain going through that program. From what I know, it did a lot for both sides and I guess this is what kept VisionQuest alive all these years. We were the glue that bonded the seams together. Even to this day people are out there that seek each other from the program, staff and kids alike. The question of "why" runs deep and the only way you would really understand is if you experienced VQ for yourself. That's why you find so many people talking about VisionQuest throughout the web such as this one. I want to thank everyone here for sharing their stories and if your interested, I have a group on Facebook with over 300 VisionQuest Alumni. We are in the process of having an Alumni reunion in July 2012 in Philadelphia PA, and then one in Tucson Arizona. You will find many articles posted that you will be able to relate too, please check us out. link;
sk=group_124412040960041&ap=1 Just copy and paste the link to your browser. You can also email me at [email protected] if you don't have Facebook and I will keep you updated on the reunion and dates as soon as they are available. Thank you again, much Love, Peace, and Happiness! Ahoe!


the train was the best time of my life

Andrei  Lubimov  Russia

Hi! I am Andrey Lubimov from Russia who was with Tony and his family from November 96th to May 97th. I worked as an assistant of wrestling coach in Waynesboro`s High School . He was very good man. I am sorry my English. When I lived in USA it was the best time of my life!

Dan S Wang

Dear Andrey, I am so glad that you got to work with an American like Tony. Whatever his later failings and criminal deeds, I always thought that in a professional work or educational situation he's the kind of person that would be represent Americans well.

Andrey Lubimov


roy long

i knew and worked for the zasas in the early 80s..first in the program,then as a staff member even then we knew tony had a coke problem


I just love that so many say nice things about a low life that worked with the mexican drug cartel with hiding at vision quest. We know him better than anyone and he has been a drug dealer for most of his life, he is due to get out of jail soon. To bad! his wife just passed away and all his kids have never been able to recover. they were given so much drug money that they never learned to work. He was the worst of the worst. charismatic as hell but evil as well. Do not glorify or only take the book cover and talk well of him....he was a low life scum bag! he will be dealing again when he gets out I guarantee it. he has nothing to lose.


Martha and Roy,
I have known Tony for many, many years and still continue to communicate with him and visit him. You may think you knew him but you obviously didn't. What is sad is that it appears that, for whatever reason, you did not like Tony. Okay, you are only two of the very many that knew him. And you obviously never knew him. So who is taking the book cover version? I know he never did cocaine. I know he wasn't and still isn't evil. As others have said, only Tony knows the reasons for what happened and why he did what he did. But don't take a news article or a press statement as gospel, because they don't have the facts either. Only conjecture. When it was all said and done, Tony did not have the big role that they initially said he did. But, as is typical of the press, they don't print that they made a mistake in what they already said. Tony is paying his debt to society as required by the courts. His wife, Sue, stood by him to her very last breath and his sons all still love him and look to him for guidance. Some of his childhood friends as well as former employees and coworkers still stand by him. He still is the caring person and friend that he portrayed to the kids and staff of VisionQuest.

Dan S Wang

I don't know what to think. Back in Franklin I heard rumors about some senior staff having drug problems, but never witnessed anything myself. I trained under Tony and found him to be an effective leader and a great guide to the kids. But I also remember him being somewhat distant from others and a bit arrogant.

VQ in general was a brutally stressful place to work. For me it was all-consuming. My lodge team recognized my effort; I was made SPS at six months. But I was burned out and quit a little less than 18 months later. What some of the long time staff did to stay sane and functional on a daily basis, I can imagine some of it was pretty unhealthy.

I recall Sue with nothing but fondness. What a warm lady. I'm very sorry to learn of her premature passing.

Deborah (Carman) Curriere

I worked for VQ in the early 80's and on the RR Wagon Train under Tony and later the ECWT under Rick. I adored Tony and Sue and was heartbroken when they transferred me to the ECWT. I think in the shock of what happened with Tony and Rick, people forget just how many youth went on to be successful productive adults because of Tony's leadership, guidance and caring. In my opinion it far outweighs his later struggles. VQ was not an easy job, like the author of this article, It was the hardest job I ever had, physically and emotionally, it was also the job I loved the most in my lifetime. It is also the job I would do again in a NY minute if I was physically able to. Don't judge individuals by what you read, but by what you know in your heart about them.


I had the pleasure of being in the VQ program and I completed it from beginning to end..... I also knew Tony and he taught me a lot but what he taught me most was how to love myself and see that there was a life outside of truly saddened me when I read what he had done... but let's not forget he also brought a lot of children out of darkness and gave them a chance at having a real future, for that I am and always will be grateful for.... Dora


It's interesting to read all that has been said about the past. I know Tony as he is today. He is one of the most honest, upbeat, positive, go getter's that I have met in a very long time. He is very proud of his boys and what they have done with their lives. He also admits to his wrongdoings and responsibility of his actions, but the one thing he is very proud of was being a part of was Vision Quest. We all have or limitations and pitfalls, it is being able to live with them and move on in a positive direction that makes humans stand out and THAT is what Tony has done, he is moving on.

JOSEPH Sherbaugh

Wow sorry to hear about Tony and Sue. I was also in vision quest in the 80s . Such a long time ago. There was good and bad times . Take care all. And Round them up

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan