Tony Spangler touched hearts for his 10 years on Earth

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | 9:56 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It was Tony Spangler's playful interactions, warm smiles and contagious giggles that touched the lives of everyone around him. 

"He melted your heart with his laugh and smile," his nurse Terese Perry said. "He was just the sweetest little thing. God's angel, he's just God's angel."

Anthony "Tony Moroni" Charles Spangler of Columbia died Monday, May 26, 2014, after battling both cerebral palsy and epilepsy for his entire life. He was 10 years old.

Tony was born June 20, 2003, to Pamela Windsor and John Spangler Jr. His family and friends knew him to be one of the happiest children to walk the Earth for the decade he was on it.

Tony was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy at 4 months old. His doctors thought that he would not live to see a year, but he proved them wrong.

Tony's severe cerebral palsy kept him from communicating his feelings through words, so instead he used his joyful expressions, his smiles and his laughter to let those around him know that he was happy.

For four months between his birth and his diagnosis, Tony cried and cried, his father said. It wasn't until he was treated with the right care that he stopped crying. 

"It's like God said, 'OK, enough crying. You're gonna laugh the rest of your life.' And he more or less did," John Spangler said.

When Tony was able to sit in a wheelchair, two of his nurses and closest friends, Barb Sproul and Terese Perry, took him on adventures and races.

"He liked to zoom-zoom and beep-beep, and he loved car racing," said Sproul, who took care of Tony for three years.

"We would take him outside on the front porch and we'd do the zoom-zoom ... That would make his day," she said. "This kid ... he melted your heart with his laugh and his smile. Just melted your heart."

His favorite activities involved listening. Whether it was listening to cartoons, listening to races or just listening to his family make playful noises, Tony was delighted.

"Little things made him happy," his father said. "He liked NASCAR because he could hear the 'vroom vroom vrrroooooom.'" 

Tony spent many days in front of the television with his father watching NASCAR races and listening to the noises that made him laugh uncontrollably.

"Listen to the cars!" John Spangler would say. "Carl Edwards from Columbia, he's gonna win it!"

Music was also a big part of Tony's life.

"He loved Lady Gaga. Oh my!" Perry said. "If you would turn that music on, he would have a grin from ear to ear. And so his mom would sing to him, and we would sing to him."

"He was amazing. He was my whole world for a year and a half."

Tony's mother, father and friends stood by his side as they fought the ups and downs of his condition.

"It was kind of a roller-coaster ride. Some days were really bad. Some days he had great days," his mother said.

Tony died from heart failure after a decade of touching the hearts of those around him.

"Everybody who's ever known Tony, they know how amazing he is," Perry said.

"I was a proud parent to have him and to be with him for 10 years, 11 months and six days," John Spangler said.

Tony is survived by mother, Pam Windsor; his father, John Spangler Jr.; and his sister, Heather Spangler.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70. Services will follow in the chapel. 

Donations can be made to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, 1825 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20006, and the Epilepsy Foundation, 8301 Professional Place E., Landover, MD 20785.

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