In The Limelight
(1970 - 2020)
Story by Teresa Nguyen
"My Dad would always say, 'There’s always someone who has it worse.' In other words, don’t feel sorry for yourself, because we all have our share of adversity." ~ Tony Huml
Founder and President of Close The Gate Hoops
Co-Founder of Janesville Basketball Association
Founder of Local Vision TV in Janesville
Former Social Studies Teacher
Forward Janesville’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year
2017Janesville Hall of Fame Inductee
A Local Legend
Janesville lost a local legend this past weekend. Tony Huml was a bright-minded, innovative, community guy. Known as a devoted family man, he was passionate about basketball, a caring teacher, talented musician, an encouraging coach, loyal friend and a man of deep faith. It was that very faith that carried him through the fight until the end.
Tony battled a rare form of cancer for 11 years, yet through the ups and downs, he kept a positive attitude, never giving up. He continued to stay involved in the community, in his work training area youth to improve their basketball skills, and with his music. Tony made sure to be there for his wife and children as much as he was able. They were his blessings and he was theirs.
Tony became a kind of hero to many, an inspiration to us all. He courageously marched on...and now he is finally at rest. His wide grin, twinkling eyes and kind-hearted spirit will be etched forever in the hearts of those who knew him.
The Early Years
Little Anthony was born to Bob and Mary Huml of Lake Geneva, WI. When he was just a toddler, their family home was destroyed by fire. Shortly after that devastating event, Bob Huml was transfered to Janesville with his work as an agent for Northwestern Mutual Life.
Tony and his four older siblings, sister Laurie, the oldest, Bob, Chris and Dean, grew up in the Briarcrest area, back when there were only six houses in the neighborhood. It was a time when "you didn’t really lock your door and you could roam around the neighborhood without worry."
His love of sports started early with neighborhood games.
The Huml siblings left to right: Bob, Chris, Laurie, Tony and Dean
Tony was frequently out playing a game of football with his buddies on the street, baseball at Gabower’s baseball diamond or basketball at the Huml home. He and his friends rode their bikes around Janesville or would hang out at one of the friends' houses playing Atari Space Invaders or Intelevision sports.
As he grew older, Tony enjoyed fishing or ice skating at Traxler Park, sledding at Riverside Park and riding his bike with his friends down “rush hill” by Meyers Farm. He would try to scrape up the money to get into each day of the Rock County 4-H Fair in summer. It was clear early on that his friendships meant a great deal to him.
Education With An Eye on the Ball
Tony attended Harrison Elementary School for kindergarten, then grades 1-8 at St Mary’s School in Janesville. He went to Marshall Jr. High, then graduated from Craig High School with the Class of 1988.
Throughout school, Tony developed a passion for basketball. He was thankful to all the excellent, influential coaches, who encouraged him, keeping him engaged. They were Dennis Gallagher, Jim Bohlman, Ralph Eckert, David Martinson and Bob Suter, assisted by Tom Neuenschwander. Coaches Suter and Neuenschwander became lifelong friends and mentors to Tony. Eventually, Coach Suter became assistant coach for Craig’s Varsity team and coached Tony's son, Jack, who had his own successful high school basketball career. Jack graduated in 2019 and now plays for the University of Wisconsin - River Falls Falcons.
Through the guidance of his coaches, Tony learned the value of we over me, and that the team is more important than any individual, a concept that would transfer later in life to Tony's classroom, workplace and relationships.
Tony continued playing basketball in college, winning the Wisconsin Junior College State Championship as a member of Coach Dave Gibbs U-Rock Unicorns. He was then recruited to play at the University of Minnesota - Morris.
Tony Huml, playing for Craig High School
Tony with his son, Jack, and wife, Jen
Tom Neuenschwander, Tony and Bob Suter
Photo by Sam Loizzo
Tony's college team peaked during his senior year, advancing to the 3rd round of the NAIA Division 1 National Tournament in Kansas City.
Tony felt that the game of basketball provided him with many great opportunities and values that lasted throughout his life.
With a degree in Education and Social Sciences, Tony taught social studies for 10 years. He taught at Monicello High School for one year, then returned to Janesville to teach at Craig High School for two years and Rock River Charter School for seven more.
In 2004, Tony took a job with Bliss Communications, selling advertising for WCLO/WJVL and the Gazettextra.
Then, in 2010, he launched Local Vision TV, an online video news source covering Rock County. The business also provided online marketing for Rock County businesses. Though it was short-lived, Tony felt it was an incredible learning experience on so many levels.
After closing Local Vision TV in 2013, Tony combined his video production skills with his basketball coaching background and began creating instructional DVDs for players and coaches.
He trained kids how to play basketball on a weekly basis, guiding individuals and small groups. Tony combined the videos and training into one business, “Close The Gate Hoops”, named after a defensive analogy he used in his teaching.
Tony's dream was to return to training students on the court. His everlasting passion for the game was inspiring.
The Local Vision TV team left to right: Joe Jimenez, Tyler Foster, Stan & Rose Stricker, Tony Huml, and Laurie Huml Eckert.
Mark Taylor is also pictured.
Tony (right) performing for a fundraiser with his friend, Steve Weber
Tony believed in giving back to the community. He served on the Peace Park Development Committee, helping with the design and build of the park. He also co-founded the Janesville Basketball Association (JBA) in 2012. It focused on building skills and character for kids in 4th - 8th grade. The JBA has grown through the years.
As a talented musician and songwriter, Tony often donated his musical skills to raise money for local charities, like ECHO, the GIFTS Men's Shelter, for the victims of Haiti's earthquake in 2010, for his church, St. John Vianney as well as for the parish school.
Tony said that one of the reasons he gave back to the community was because the community had given so much to him and his family.
When his basketball playing career ended in college, he felt a void. One day, a friend let Tony borrow his guitar. After experimenting with it a bit, his cousin taught him the main riffs of two songs: “Dust in The Wind” and “Stairway to Heaven”. Tony said, "I was hooked!"
The hours he spent shooting ball were replaced with learning “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and other songs of the day.
Eventually, he started songwriting and tried getting his songs published and on the radio. He shared this fun story in a 2017 interview: I'll never forget the morning I was shaving about 6:30am. Bad Company’s "Feel Like Making Love” was followed by Tony Huml’s “Brown Apple” during Sly in the Morning’s segment on 101.5 FM! It was a bit surreal hearing my song coming out of the clock radio sitting on my sink!
Music became Tony's new passion and continued throughout his life. The band he spent most of his time with was HK (Huml and Kelly, named after Dan Kelly, who was Tony's best friend and guitar writing partner). Together they performed around the area and recorded a few CD's.
Tony met many friends through the local music scene. He believed the talent in our community is truly remarkable.