A funeral will be held at 4pm this Sunday, July 1, at Wat Hua Hin, for Tony Allison, the South African editor-in-chief of Asia Times Online, who died suddenly a week ago.
Tony, who was 59, died of complications following a heart operation earlier this year that ultimately failed. This was news that surprised many friends, given he was an athlete who had always keep in good physical condition. His death was sudden and unexpected, as was evident from the upbeat text message he sent to his sister a day or so prior to his passing in Mahachai Hosital.
Asia Times Online has published a list of glowing tributes to Allison, and they hail a disciplined and much admired journalist and editor. The following obituary is by David Simmons, a long-time colleague of Tony, who now works at The Nation newspaper (a longer version will appear in Dateline later).
Born in Pietermaritzburg in 1953, Anthony Thurlow Allison matriculated from Maritzburg College in the same South African city in 1971 and went on to pursue a law degree. Though he graduated from the University of Natal, also in Pietermaritzburg, with a Bachelor of Laws, he never practiced that profession, moving into journalism instead.
A lover of sports throughout his lifetime, Allison took a job as a sports sub-editor, or copy editor, at The Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg in the late 1970s. His capabilities were quickly noticed, and he was tasked with a total redesign of the sports section, winning much acclaim.
In 1980, he left The Witness when he landed a post on one of South Africa's major newspapers, the anti-apartheid Rand Daily Mail. From the Mail's sports department, where he also excelled, he moved across to news and quickly rose to the position of deputy chief sub-editor.
In the mid-80s, after the Mail closed, Tony moved to Hong Kong, where he joined the South China Morning Post. Quickly rising through the ranks again, he was named deputy chief sub-editor, and then assistant editor around 1988, then deputy editor of the Sunday Morning Post.
Aside from being a good newspaper man, his great passion was sport. In South Africa, Allison twice took part in the 90-kilometre Comrades Marathon from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, and several times competed in the famed Dusi Canoe Marathon. Actually a kayak race, this runs between those same two cities along the Msunduzi River.
Relocation from the vastness of South Africa to the confines of what was then the British colony of Hong Kong had no effect on Allison's passion for kayaking, and he adapted his paddling skills to dragon boats.
But the pinnacle of Allison's boating accomplishments came a couple of years later, when he was part of a five-man team that set a world record, kayaking non-stop across the South China Sea from Hong Kong to the Philippines, raising money for charity. Around the same time, he inaugurated the Round the Island canoe race in Hong Kong.
Shortly afterward, Allison left Hong Kong for Thailand, the country that was to be his home for the rest of his life.
Initially, he was a senior correspondent at the Bangkok bureau of Asia Magazine. Then in 1995, the Asia Times daily newspaper was founded, and Allison was one of its first hires.
After the ambitious Asia Times project foundered amid the financial crisis of 1997-98, Allison and compatriot Allen Quicke helped to keep the name alive in Asia Times Online. News websites were rare in Asia at the time, but together they took the site from zero to hero, especially in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks in the US, foreseen by ATol correspondent Pepe Escobar in the August 2001 story "Get Osama! Now! Or else ..."
Eventually Asia Times Online relocated from Bangkok to the resort town of Hua Hin, where Allison could indulge his passions for sea-canoeing and cycling (little more than a year ago he came second in an arduous cycle race around Hua Hin), along with golfing and soccer with his young son Don. Happy to guide ATol into success after success as second in command to Quicke, he found the top job thrust into his hands upon Quicke's untimely death in August 2010.
Late the following year, fate intervened yet again. Allison, a lover of sport, who took good care of his body into his late 50s, drinking moderately and spurning tobacco, was diagnosed to his great annoyance with a heart ailment. He underwent an operation in early 2012, which initially restored his health, and he was soon back on the soccer field with Don and cycling in the hilly countryside around Hua Hin. But complications set in, and to the horror of his colleagues and many friends, he died on Wednesday, June 20, his wife Janejira at his side.
Tony Allison leaves behind him two sons - Don and, from a previous marriage, Simon Allison, himself a rising star in South African journalism. Just before he was taken seriously ill, Tony had booked time off from Asia Times Online to travel to Africa to witness Simon's marriage to Claire. As the news of Allison's death hit the young couple, they and Don conferred on what to do - should they postpone the wedding and fly immediately to Thailand?
"After much thought, Don, Claire and I have decided to go ahead with the wedding," Simon announced. "We thought a huge party with free-flowing beer would be a fitting tribute."
Simon has since arrived in Thailand for his father's funeral. Friends of Tony are welcome to join the service on Sunday, which is set to start around 4pm.
# Please check ATO for any further details. www.atimes.com
David Simmons can be contacted via email@example.com
Photo is courtesy of ATol.
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