WAKEFIELD – For nearly 50 years, Tony and Amy Beth Parravano of Cranston enjoyed a relationship and marriage bound by love and an acute appreciation for the arts. Together, the duo traveled around the state and region performing theater and music, and even filmed a show on their craft that aired on public access television for 25 years. Tragically, Tony, 87, died during one such performance outside of Mary Murphy’s on Main Street on the afternoon of Aug. 15, the result of a long battle with cancer. Now, Amy Beth reflects upon the life and death of her husband, who helped her bring cheer and joy to public streets across the region during their time together.
“Coping with Tony’s death is a slow process,” she said. “Healing means dealing with a sort of lost form of love. Tony died very suddenly.”
“I continue to do those things and go to those places that we traveled together,” she continued. “What I miss about him most was his courage, love and bravery. Love was, in a way for us, more spiritual as soulmates. I continue fellowship and am active with a circle of friends and my two sons.”
Despite Amy Beth’s grandparents and Tony’s parents being neighbors in Providence’s Silver Lake neighborhood, the couple met in 1974 as the result of an ad placed in The Providence Journal by Amy Beth seeking a bass guitar player for a country rock band she was forming after returning from a trip to Nashville, TN. Tony, a musician, was a civilian cartographer for the U.S. Army Map Service for over 30 years before his retirement, and was drafted into the Army in 1950 to serve during the Korean War.
Upon his retirement from military life, Tony opened and operated a landscaping business, sometimes with Amy Beth's assistance. The couple were engaged in 1979, after experiencing the Blizzard of ’78 together. During this time, Amy Beth also worked in a jewelry store and as an in-store food demonstrator at supermarkets, but her’s and Tony’s professional pursuits crossed over in the form of performance, with the duo constantly hitting the road and bringing their musical and mime act to public streets and events in towns throughout the state and beyond. Amy Beth, a songwriter and actor who performs in mime, felt like she met her match in Tony, who played different assortments of instruments and also had an avid interest in filmmaking. Wanting to reach a wider audience, the couple began to produce “Amy Beth Presents” a television show featuring the performer and frequent guests, which was in part filmed by Tony. “Amy Beth Presents” debuted on COX Rhode Island in 1995 and was still running at the time of Tony’s death.
“As a woman, I thought I was well familiar with Buster Keaton and Marcel Marceau, but it seems I developed my own way to mime and it actually became my business,” said Amy Beth. “People were really responding to my performance. Seems that Tony knew I had some like with early pantomimus Greek theatre and he even would show me some skits from silent era days. He would follow me around with vidcam, and we ended up producing ‘Amy Beth Presents’ for 25 years and were able to share our talents that way.”
On Aug. 15, Amy Beth and Tony were on Main Street in Wakefield outside of Mary Murphy’s for one such performance during South Kingstown’s Endless Summer Festival when tragedy struck. Tony, who had previously suffered from a brain tumor as a result of cancer and had been in hospice, sat down in a lawn chair while Amy Beth performed in mime along Main Street. At one point, Tony took a walk, and a bit later, Amy Beth looked to see two men standing with him and her husband suffering a massive seizure.
“I was in mime, in that performance, when this was happening, and it felt like this was a Greek tragedy really happening to me,” she said. “I had to speak while in mime, which is very sad. They laid him on the sidewalk to do CPR but he would not come back.”
The massive seizure had led to critical heart failure. Tony was pronounced dead at South County Hospital a short time later. Despite the circumstances surrounding his death, Amy Beth takes solace in the fact that her husband lived longer than expected, given his medical conditions, and a more spiritual occurrence. On Main Street in Wakefield, as CPR on her husband failed, Amy Beth watched a small, white feather ascend from the street that Tony lay on, a symbol of his soul’s departure from this realm, according to the performer.
Amy Beth still feels the loss of her husband every day, but copes with the assistance of friends and family, including their two sons, Paul and Peter. The mime performer also makes clear Tony helped prepare her for the inevitable.
“He was 87 when he died and I’m 68,” she said. “The most outstanding thing about him was that he did prepare me for the worst. We grew very close over the years. What I really miss is the comraderie. He became my one true friend.”
Amy Beth still travels around the state performing in mime, carrying on a legacy of love and artistic matrimony at public venues and events in memory of her late husband.