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Flint, MI–Tony Palladeno Jr., a long-time Flint activist and former Flint Journal reporter perhaps best known for his tenacity and bluntness when it came to holding local and state leadership accountable for the water crisis, died on Monday, Jan. 10, 2021.
A lifelong resident of the Flint area, Palladeno was known long before the water crisis as an outspoken advocate for his east side community. Among his other accomplishments as an activist, Palladeno set up clean-up groups in Flint’s east side to address the issues of blight and was a vocal advocate for bringing back the arts programs in Flint Public Schools.
More than just an activist, however, Palladeno was a beloved father and husband who is survived by his wife Leah and son Tony Palladeno III.
Florlisa Fowler, a fellow water warrior who met Palladeno back in 2014 when he attended the first protest she’d ever organized said Palladeno’s death is a “blow” to Flint’s activist community.
“I’ve known Tony since the beginning. He was online, in our groups and was a very active part of our movement. We’ve lost a good one. I don’t know how else to put it,” Fowler said.
Sporting a burly white beard and his signature braided ponytail, Palladeno, Fowler said, was never afraid to speak his mind. Palladeno came to be known as one of the loudest voices in the room whenever the water crisis was being addressed and was also known as one of the most fervent advocates for the people of Flint often to the point where he would be kicked out of meetings and in one case, even arrested.
“He said things bluntly that we were thinking. He actually said it, and he said it in a way that was able to articulate these thoughts in ways that elevated the conversation and let our thoughts known,” Fowler said. “He was always a community supporter and helped. He loved his neighbors and the people of the city of Flint. He loved hoping and trying to improve our conditions. He was just a true fighter for the residents,” Fowler said.
A lifelong activist, Palladeno came to befriend many of the city’s water warriors like Fowler and Melissa Mays, another activist with whom Palladeno fought beside.
Like dozens of others across the city, Mays took to Facebook following the news of Palladeno’s death and shared her experiences with him.
“I met Tony 7 years ago on a frozen sidewalk protesting this water. We laughed, we fought, we tubed down the river, we strategized and went in on those who harmed our City. Tony, this world is far better thanks to you being here and never giving up the fight. You are absolutely one-of-a-kind and your influence and your loss is felt deeply,” Mays said.
Mays added that in her time working with Palladeno, she came to see Tony as the “good, strong advocate and protective family man,” that he really was.
“Tony Palladeno Jr is irreplaceable, (he) made a permanent and positive impact on Flint and will be sorely missed,” Mays said.