Anthony P. Hmura, 93, of Auburn, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family on Sunday, October 30, 2016. Born and raised in the “Green Island” section of Worcester to Polish immigrant parents, Felix and Mary (Polka) Hmura, Anthony lived in Worcester for 47 years before building a home in Auburn in 1970, where he spent the next 46 years.
Anthony, affectionately known as “Tony,” was a 1943 graduate of Commerce High School in Worcester. In August of 1943, Tony enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and honorably served his country from 1943 to 1946. While serving his country during World War II in the European Theater, he was an assistant engineer, tail gunner and belly gunner on a B-24 Liberator in the 44Sth Bomb Group, 701st and 703rd Bomb Squadrons, Eighth and Second Army Air Corp out of Tibenham, England. He flew 26 missions over Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hanover, Munster and Koblenz. He was shot down in 1944 and rescued by the French resistance. He survived the deadliest air battle of WWII, the Kassell Mission Bombing Raids in September 1944, which had the highest losses of any U. S. air battle and has earned four air medals, two Presidential Unit Citations and the E.T.O. ribbon with three battle stars. He was two missions short of receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. His Squadron Commander was the actor Jimmy Stewart. In 1945, after a 30 day furlough, Tony reported to Fort Dix, N. J. for redeployment and in conjunction with his bombing missions has been over England, France, Germany, Norway and Czechoslovakia. He was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in October of 1945.
After returning home from the war, Tony briefly worked at Parker Manufacturing Company, Inc. in Worcester where his sister Helen and brother and WWII veteran Frank held prominent positions. In 1946 Tony married his former wife, sweetheart, friend and mother to his four children. Also in 1946, Tony started Leader Sign Company, a commercial advertising company in Worcester, still driving into work from his residence in Auburn every day until mid September 2016 at the age of 93. Leader Signs at the time had a state of the art neon glass blowing plant and talented artists producing some of the iconic, landmark neon signs in central Massachusetts and beyond. A few of the 100’s of signs Tony built during his 69 years at Leader Signs include the trio of Speedy’s on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, Hi-Boy’s and Big Boy’s in Springfield, essentially the same sign with different names, also, Duddie’s Cadillac City on Park Avenue in Worcester, the Flying Yankee in Auburn, all sophisticated neon wonders and The Driftwood in Framingham. Remarkably the Flying Yankee sign somehow survived and has been restored and was on display between April 12 and September 14, 2003 at the New England Neon exhibition at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. The sign was chosen to be prominently displayed outside the front entrance of the museum to advertise and promote the exhibition. Tony was interviewed at the time about his sign and the years he spent in the sign industry by the sponsors of the exhibition.
Besides his sign company, Tony was involved in a wide variety of ventures over the years, including publisher, editor and founder of the patriotic newspaper The Spirit of 1776 whose inaugural issue appeared in June, 1989. In the mid 1960’s he owned and operated the night club My Place in North Oxford and in the 1970’s his flagship night club, the PNA in Millbury. The PNA was two clubs in one with a seating capacity in the lower level being 300 and the upper level being 600. The upper level of the club hosted, through the efforts of prominent booking agents, some of the most popular acts in New England at the time,including the bands Celebration, Mad Angel, Albatross and Fate, always packing the popular club to the rafters. Smaller acts were booked into the lower level venue. He was also an insurance agent for a local insurance company winning many awards and trips for his sales accomplishments. Tony was also a real estate investor and owned numerous commercial and residential properties in the area. He was fond of the people at the Worcester Housing Court and in a novel way always looked forward to his day in court.
Tony was a devoted American and was proud of his war record and Polish heritage and continued a lifelong involvement in many Veteran and Polish organizations. He was a past Commander of the Joseph Cherry American Legion Post 151 in Worcester; he was a member of the Vernon Hill American Legion Post 435 in Worcester and was a member of the Polish American Veterans of Worcester. He was also a member of and held various positions in the Polish Naturalization Independent Club (PNI), the Polish National Alliance Club, (PNA), and the White Eagle Polish Club all in Worcester. He was a supporter and prolific fundraiser for the Polish Mother’s Memorial Hospital in Lodz, Poland, attended the opening and was recognized for his efforts, receiving an award from the hospital which was presented by Post Eagle Editor Chester Grabowski who was also instrumental in the successful endeavor to build the hospital. During the Christmas holiday season, Tony could be found visiting local Main South and Vernon Hill area businesses he frequented and attending holiday functions as the “Polish Santa”, affectionately handing out silver dollars to well deserving patrons and workers.
Tony also had political ambitions, running for State Representative from Ward Five in Worcester in 1965, City Council in Worcester in the mid 1960’s and Congress in Massachusetts 3rd Congressional District in 1976. He continued to maintain a lifelong love of politics. He actively supported the campaigns of many politicians during his lifetime, in particular, he expended a great deal of effort and worked particularly hard on the campaign to elect gubernatorial candidate John A. Volpe who served as the 61st and 63rd Governor of Massachusetts from 1961 to 1963 and 1965 to 1969.
Tony, over the years, was a frequent contributor of articles to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette’s People’s Forum and for a time was also a frequent caller into local radio talk shows. Tony will be remembered for his energy, drive, persistence, determination, tenacity,independence, non-conforming personality and telling it like it is. His word was his bond, he was reliable, engaging, generous, compassionate and a loyal friend and was always willing to help a person in need.
Tony is survived and will be lovingly missed by his four sons, Bryan A. Mura Auburn, Gary R. Hmura and his wife, Judy of Shrewsbury, Gregory P. Hmura of Cedar Hills, Utah and Robert W. Mura and his wife, Kathleen of Princeton; his former wife, Roseanne Michaud Hmura; a sister, Ann Baronowski of Dudley; five grandchildren, Michael, David,Daniel, Steven and Alexander; nine great grandchildren, Sidney, Rachel, Madison, Katlyn, Camron, Sadie, Declan, Avery and Emerson; nephews and nieces. Besides his parents, Tony is predeceased by two brothers, Frank Hmura and Walter Hmura and two sisters, Julia Bednarz and Helen Thompson.
Relatives and friends are invited to visit with Tony’s family from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, November 4th, at the Miles Funeral Home, 1158 Main St., Holden. A funeral service honoring his life will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 5th, at the funeral home. Interment will follow at Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Tony’s name to Vernon Hill American Legion Post 435 Scholarship Fund, 267 Providence Street, Worcester, MA 01607. For more information regarding Tony you can go to his website, www.1ww2vet.blogspot.com.