In a tribute video, Tony Escobar is seen celebrating life the only way he knew how — always on the go. Photos capture him dancing, giving birthday speeches and cheering on baseball teams.
“He wasn't happy unless he was moving around,” his son Jason Escobar said.
Tony was forced to stop on Jan. 10 when he passed away from COVID-19. He was 68.
“He was a shark in many ways,” said Jason inside the dining room of Beer Nerds, a pizza place he co-owns in the Mission District where his dad grew up. “He didn’t want to move backward. He just wanted to move forward.”
Jason, along with his sister Athena Labagh and aunt Ivania Angel, shared their memories of Tony as part of an ongoing series on The California Report Magazine reflecting on those who died from COVID-19.
‘Work Hard, Play Hard’
Jason said his dad instilled in his family a philosophy of “work hard, play hard,” which can be traced back to his early days growing up in San Francisco.
Born in 1952, Tony immigrated with his family to San Francisco when he was a kid, around 8 years old. Angel, the youngest of five siblings, recalls hearing stories of those days when her parents were trying to start a new life.
“They talked about how they lived in many houses around the Mission, and how they had to sleep on the same mattress at times,” she said.
As he grew up, Tony excelled in sports and was known as an athlete during his time at Mission High School. Angel said she and her family made it an all-day event to watch Tony’s baseball and basketball games.
“I thought that he had springs in his shoes because this guy could jump!” Angel said. “He just had so much energy.”
Tony’s love of sports stayed with him into adulthood. Jason said his dad volunteered to referee basketball, volleyball and flag football. But the biggest highlight of Tony’s sports career happened in 2017 when he was inducted into Mission High’s Hall of Fame.
“His speech was a half-hour long,” Jason said. “They were trying to get him to wrap it up. But he just kept going. That's just kind of who he was. He wanted to steal the show, so to speak.”
Tony pushed himself in his professional life, too.
“He was definitely a go-getter and a hustler,” Angel said. “He never let any opportunity go.”
She said Tony took after their father, a real estate broker. When he wasn’t running open houses, Tony sold air filters and served as a traveling notary.