Cancer takes Shepparton livestock agent

By Geoff Adams

Tony Pianto knew he was going to die.

Following the confronting cancer diagnosis in January, 2018, he set about recording his wishes for his family and friends and even recorded a video urging mourners to have a beer at his wake.

The knockabout Shepparton livestock agent found the strength to encourage his family before he died on August 16.

The cancer diagnosis came while his son Matt and his new daughter-in-law Amanda were on their honeymoon, and Matt acknowledged that no-one saw the tidal wave coming that flattened his dad.

Tony loved football, enjoyed a fishing trip with a cold beer and treasured his family.

The son of Bernie and Dawn Pianto, Anthony John Pianto was born in Bendigo and moved with his family to Albury where he found his first job working in the stock industry at the age of 17.

In his first job with Elders, he was transferred to Jerilderie, where his life changed.

He would regularly visit the Jerilderie branch of the Bank of New South Wales to cash his pay cheque where a young woman caught his eye.

When there was a queue, Tony would let the others go ahead until he calculated he would get the right teller.

Tony had joined the local footy club and that bank teller, Nikki James, was the daughter of one of the selectors so the two had an opportunity to get to know each other.

Nikki didn’t know it at the time, but Tony had asked her father for permission to take her out.

Tony was transferred to Alexandra in 1986 and the couple married in 1987 at the Jerilderie Catholic Church.

The next move was to Ensay in far eastern Gippsland, a move not without some trepidation for the newlyweds, but they soon warmed up to the friendly community.

Craig Lloyd remarked that the cheeky young bloke soon fitted in well, joining the football club and taking out two best and fairest awards.

“You won over the crusty old blokes with your knowledge of stock, your efficiency and your no-bull attitude,’’ Craig reminded mourners at Tony’s funeral.

Brother Peter Pianto recalled the Pianto family Christmases and the fishing trips.

Even after his illness progressed, Tony insisted on a trip to Darwin and reeled in some fish with the help of his brother and son.

James Gray, speaking on behalf of Matt and Amanda’s friends, remarked how Tony had treated Matt’s friends like sons.

“Stories have been told when Tony was helping with football training in Matt’s under-16 days in Congupna, he would be sure to drag a select few to the other side of the oval away from the training group and absolutely give it to you if he sensed any of that head wobble on Thursday night,’’ James said.

And he would be first with a hug or motivating word for the young blokes when things were going right.

Tony’s son Matt told mourners how his dad had fought the pancreatic cancer hammer and tongs, with the support of his mum.

There was some respite as relentless chemotherapy treatment did its job and Tony went back to work for a while.

He was able to enjoy some trips up the coast and the odd fishing trip.

“Dad battled on with all the physical and mental strategies that his footy days had trained him for on the footy field,’’ Matt said.

Tony Pianto, 54, died on Friday, August 16, surrounded by his family.

A large crowd attended his funeral at the Congupna Community Centre on August 22.

At Shepparton Regional Saleyards, a minute’s silence was observed before one of Tony’s steers was auctioned to raise money for the Peter Copulos Cancer and Wellness Centre in Shepparton.

With the auction and other contributions, a cheque for about $8000 was presented to the cancer centre.

Oncology nurses Nicole and Jill were thanked by the family for their professional support, patience and good humour.