John Tonneson, 65, of Methuen, MA, passed away from colon cancer on August 2, 2022, in the comfort of his own home. He spent his final months in the care of his loving partner, Nancy Antell, and daughter, Stephanie Tonneson, as well as many visiting family members and friends.
As David and Phyllis Tonneson’s first-born, John was the leader and protector of the Tonneson family. By age ten, he was already shoveling out huge embankments of snow in the driveway and creating forts for his younger brothers, Michael, two, and Bob, four, to explore and play inside of. By middle school, he was paying visits to neighborhood bullies and insisting on a change in behavior. Once, at a college party, when a linebacker from the football team was harassing his younger sister, Beth, John approached him (despite being a third of his size) and threatened to take him down on the spot. The kid, terrified, wordlessly retreated. To this day, the word his father most frequently uses to describe John and his role within the family is “hero.”
In high school, John was a track and cross-country star, setting regional records and serving as co-captain of the team. As a college student at Dartmouth, he was an exceptional guitar player, once trading rent money for a new amplifier and a living situation underneath the porch of his fraternity house. In his adult life, he became a recruiter, spending eleven years with Ernst & Young as a supply chain and business consultant and then achieving pace-setter awards at the largest recruiting firm in the world. Eventually, he started his own business, Greenbridge Recruiting, where he proceeded to make 173 placements until retiring in 2021. As a second business to his recruiting, he invested in and managed several rental properties in Manchester, NH.
John was an extremely loving and devoted father to his daughter, Stephanie. He showed up to every soccer game and took notes to review with her afterwards on how she could improve. When her interests shifted to the arts, he remained a dutiful audience member, following along as she moved from passion to passion. When she wrote, he read every poem. When she sang, he attended every concert. When she podcasted, he listened to every episode, promoting her show to visiting friends from his deathbed. He was a disciplinarian, which instilled in her a strong work ethic and a desire to be challenged, but also emotionally nourishing to an astoundingly high degree. This resulted in a child whose sole focus in life is passing this same gift her father gave to her—that of making someone feel wholly seen and understood—on to others through her creative work.
John and his partner, Nancy, had a beautiful twelve-year relationship, during which they took ballroom dance classes, trips to Florida, and countless visits to the construction site of their dream home in Methuen, MA, as they built it side by side. The home—with the furniture he arranged and rearranged, the artwork he hung and rehung from a twelve-foot ladder under Nancy’s direction, and the many items of decor he offered counsel on—is a living, breathing testament of John's commitment to Nancy and the love and life that they shared. John supported Nancy through the death of her parents, helping to move her father into four different assisted living homes and caring for him over the course of nine years, as well as her mother for two. They were an extremely compatible couple, sharing many of the same hobbies such as fishing, kayaking, and spending time in nature.
Some of John and Nancy’s most treasured memories were at her family’s lake house in Derry, NH, with her children and their spouses: Natalie and Donnie; Jen and Chad; and Paul and Arielle. To their children, Rowan, Jace, and Indie, John became “Grampy John,” and “nobody could make Rowan giggle like Grampy John.”
John was also a dear friend to many, including Chuck Picardy, with whom he went on countless annual fishing trips and who came to visit him at both cancer clinics (one in Arizona and the other in Florida) where he received treatment.
If integrity is defined as “when your actions match your words,” upholding this trait was John’s top priority. His favorite quote was, “The measure of a good recruiter is the time from failure to the next phone call,” which he exemplified the day he got laid off from his job in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and made his first call as a business owner a mere few hours later. During the last few months of his life, he initiated five projects on his rental properties from the comfort of his hospital bed (all in effort to leave them in pristine condition before his passing) and continued to oversee them right up until the day he died.
Some of his last words were:
(About Nancy:) “I trust her completely.”
(About Stephanie:) “How are you doing on podcast equipment? I want to get you one last birthday present.”
(About life:) “I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to go through this cancer journey surprisingly, even to myself, not feeling self-pity. I’m lucky that way.”
Family and friends are graciously invited to attend visitation at Cataudella Funeral Home, 126 Pleasant Valley Street in Methuen, MA, on August 6, 2022, between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. A celebration of life will follow at the Tuscan Kitchen, 67 Main Street in Salem, NH, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of John may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, via www.stjude.org.