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Friday, December 3, 2010

Sad News From WA

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 62-year-old Anthony Poortinga of Wenatchee, WA, who was the owner of Anthony’s Cheap Tow towing service. He died on Saturday, 11/27, in a house fire. Judging from the story comments, he was a great guy who will be missed deeply. Here's the story from The Wenatchee World (click the link to go to the newspaper online, there is an additional story from 2005 on Anthony):
EAST WENATCHEE — Anthony Poortinga, 62, the well-liked and flamboyant owner of Anthony’s Cheap Tow towing service, died Saturday night, his body found by firefighters inside his East Wenatchee home.
Firefighters responded at 11:33 p.m. Saturday to a house filled with smoke at 167 12th St. N.E. Douglas County Fire District 2 firefighters quickly knocked down a small fire and found Poortinga in a bedroom while searching and ventilating the house, said Douglas County Fire Chief Chuck Fenton. Poortinga lived alone and was the only person in the house at the time of the fire. There were no smoke alarms in the house. Fenton said it appeared Poortinga had awakened and tried to make it to a window before being overcome by smoke. The fire call came from an East Wenatchee Police officer who spotted the smoke.

Fenton said he knew Poortinga personally and found him to be a very friendly person who was always willing to help others.

“He really didn’t have a chance,” Fenton said. “If there’s anything we can take from this, it’s a lesson that smoke detectors are critical. It could have made a difference.” The smoke started in a closet close to Poortinga’s bedroom. It’s likely the fire was caused by an electrical short, but impossible to say for sure, Fenton said.

East Wenatchee Police confirmed the victim was Poortinga Sunday after notifying his relatives. He was an East Wenatchee resident since 1979. An autopsy will be made to determine the cause of death, said Dan Rierson, East Wenatchee Police assistant chief.

Poortinga was well known around the valley as the owner of Anthony’s Cheap Tow. In his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, bandana tied around his neck, pearl-buttoned denim shirt and cowboy boots, he could be seen nearly every day driving one of his tow trucks around the valley or stopped by the side of the road helping a motorist. When he wasn’t on a towing mission, he could be found in one of his trucks reading a paperback mystery book or in a local cafe. His favorite haunts were Jimmy’s Diner on the Eastside and Denny’s and Smitty’s restaurants in Wenatchee. He loved to read.

“When he didn’t come in Sunday, we wondered where he was,” Sherri Schoonover, a waitress at Jimmy’s Diner, said this morning. “He would come here every day and order the breakfast special and read a book. He was very well liked here.” Schoonover said he would often come in with his daughter and grandchildren. “He was like family. He will be missed.”

Poortinga started Anthony’s Cheap Tow in 2004 after retiring from a career as a private contractor installing power and telephone poles throughout the Northwest. Interviewed for a 2005 Wenatchee World article, Poortinga said he started the towing business because his previous career had kept him on the road all the time and made it difficult to make friends.

He started out with a pickup and flatbed trailer that he used to transport race cars, then added the towing service and gradually added several more vehicles, stationed around the valley. The blue trucks with their Anthony’s Cheap Tow signs were his only form of advertising. He said the business didn’t make him a lot of money, but he loved it because it gave him a chance to help people and make a lot of friends.

“I’ve always done things a little different,” he said in the 2005 article. “I’ve always blazed my own trail.”

Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151

steigmeyer@wenatcheeworld.com

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