Anthony "Tony" Phillip Kovach (A.K.A. "The Iron Man", "Big Tone", and "Korny Tobach") came into this world on a humble farm in Portage, Michigan, January or February 9th of 1939; being the youngest of 11, his Ma couldn't remember which. The son of industrious Eastern European, immigrant parents (Stephen & Anna Kovach), he began work weeding onions with his family at age four - forming a habit of constant productiveness which never left him. As hard as the work could be at times, Tony recalled his youth as a happy one, working alongside his many brothers and sisters before running to the local swimming hole on hot summer days.
Tony graduated from Portage Central High School, never having joined a single club or organization during matriculation. However, he was still remembered years later by his principal as "one of his favorite students" due to his honest bearing and good-humored nature.
He met the love of his life, Bonnie Louise ("the most beautiful girl" he had ever seen) in Schoolcraft, Michigan on a day he and his friends knew the local farm boys would be occupied and unable to court. They married young in 1957, against her father's wishes. As in many relationships in his life, during ensuing years Tony became close with his previously reluctant father-in-law as he proved himself to be a steadfast young husband and father.
To support his bride and soon-to-be-born son he joined the Navy, volunteering for "hazard duty" as a torpedo man based in Groton, Connecticut. Proud to serve his country, Tony developed a lifelong love of the sea and all things military - displaying an almost photographic memory of mechanical apparatus, which served him well during his enlistment. While in Connecticut, Bonnie and Tony welcomed two more children, a son and a daughter. Times were busy and money was tight, but they always remembered this time as a happy one, taking the children on long walks in the evenings and saving pennies to buy grinders as a special treat.
In 1960 with his service completed, he and Bonnie returned to southwest Michigan to begin construction of their future home. Working full-time as an apprentice plumber in the day, he and his beloved spent their evenings and weekends building their dream. They welcomed three more children into this loving place over the next 15 years - two daughters and a son.
Tony was the proud father of a big family. He spent much of his time patiently teaching his children a plethora of skills, including hunting, planting & horticulture, animal husbandry, and inculcating a deep love of reading, self-education, and imagination. Always a great storyteller, he liked to tell his children fanciful stories about "working on the Alaskan Pipeline" and "punting on the Thames" - borrowing liberally from his extensive reading catalogue to paint stories by which to amuse and amaze them. The house was constantly filled with music as Tony appreciated the sounds of artists like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, ABBA, Elton John, and The Beatles. Later in life he was proud that several of his children and grandchildren became talented amateur and professional musicians.
During the ensuing years, Tony and Bonnie continued a portion of the farming business started by his father, running their own small blueberry farm from their home property ("A.P. Kovach Blueberries"). Tony started his own business as a Master Plumber ("Kovach Plumbing"), also volunteering as a teacher for Schoolcraft Public School's Building Trades program. He apprenticed many plumbers currently working in the Kalamazoo area, and his three sons all became successful Master Plumbers. One grandson now carries the trade into yet a third generation.
After retirement, Tony and Bonnie traveled to many of the historical places he read about in his youth. He enjoyed the blessings of an ever-expanding family - delighting in teaching his grandchildren to swim, taking them to "watch trains", and going on frequent outings to DQ for dip cones.
He also spent many afternoons in his later life welding fanciful animals and windmills out of scrap metal, stored and categorized over many decades. He delighted in expressing himself via sculpture using these found materials, going so far as to invent his own tools for special applications and giving the creatures comical names. His children proudly display his menagerie in their numerous gardens.
Throughout his life, Tony displayed a tireless effort towards providing his heirs with a better life. His love of learning and his legacy of independent thinking, hard work, honesty, humility, and humor continues through his descendants: Nick Kovach, Patrick (Margaret) Kovach, Shelly (Dan) Johnson, Yvonne (Tim) Cooper, Stephen (April) Kovach, Emilie Kovach, 12 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren (with 2 on the way).
Tony passed peacefully, surrounded by his loving family on June 27, 2023.
In his own words, he will be remembered as "a gentleman and a scholar". He will be sorely missed and never duplicated.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. in St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 1150 W. Centre Ave, Portage MI 49024. Tony's family will receive guests at the church beginning at 10:00 a.m. and following the service in Marion Hall. Private interment with military honors will be held in Ft. Custer National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to St. Vincent de Paul Society – Kalamazoo or Centrica Care Navigators (Hospice). Arrangements entrusted to Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services, 3926 S. 9th St, Kalamazoo MI 49009.