Remembering Tony Slabacheski

By | February 2, 2021

Last week I wrote to you of the news of the passing of Tony Slabacheski.  Many of you reached out with remembrances of your relationship with Tony, and often the words you used included “mentor”, “kindness”, “always welcoming”. And of course “camera”.  I will add my words to yours – Tony was so welcoming to me, gave me such helpful advice on being a board members and then being an Officer.  And I too always smiled when that envelop showed up in the mail with photos of me from an event. He will be missed, but his impact on the organization will always be there.  Thank you Tony, and my sympathies to his family and friends at the loss of a true pillar in the HFMA family.

Deb Schoenthaler, current HFMA MA-RI Chapter President

“Reflections from Lynn Wiatrowski: “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”

Tony was indeed a beloved and iconic member of the HFMA community, both in MA-RI and nationally.  He was literally, the first person that I met at my first Chapter meeting in the mid-1980’s, and I vividly remember the countless introductions he made to be sure that the “newcomer” felt welcome.  That was Tony, way back then, and for decades to follow.  Tony dedicated years of leadership to help the Mass and MA-RI Chapter thrive, including being instrumental in the Chapter winning our first ever Yerger Award in 2000 (an honor that went on to be commonplace in subsequent years (photo attached)!). Tony served all the offices, culminating in Chapter President in 2001.  He was also the “Ringmaster” for the Annual Golf Outing which under his stewardship became the “never to be missed event” that it still is today.

Simply put, Tony dedicated countless hours to the chapter, was an amazing connector and always made HFMA feel like a family…making introductions, taking photos and always, always making you feel welcome and special.  Tony cared passionately about the importance of documenting & preserving the spirit & the history of our Chapter, its members and their families.  He was one of the most genuine, wonderful colleague and friend out there.  He made HFMA and being part of this wonderful community so special.

We will miss our dear, wonderful, larger than life, Tony; it is impossible to imagine HFMA and the healthcare industry without him; but he will always have a special place in the memory bank of HFMA and in each of our hearts…

Very poignantly, one of the last written correspondences a group of us received from Tony was the following:

“Didn’t realize how much you miss old friends. Miss taking photos of all our families at special meetings , wives , children , It’s been difficult at this time!!!! 19 😡,,,  looking thru a lot of photos , we have developed friendships that will never be forgotten. This healthcare group has very special SOLDIERS ,, Thx to you all …”

RIP Tony,   HFMA’s very special SOLDIER… YOU will never be forgotten…”

Lynn Wiatrowski, former HFMA President


“I expect that most people met Tony when he approached them to either pose for a picture or to get their name because he already took a candid picture. If that was all Tony did he would still have met most of our members. In my case that initial encounter flourished into a tapestry of relationships. First our friendship blossomed from HFMA meetings to other opportunities involving our families. It was not a rare event to run into Tony on a golf course with my boys. Tony always has an idea or topic for HFMA meetings. They usually began with, “It would be great if you could give a talk on….” We also had a business relationship that began with our fledgling MGPO and at times involved consulting on my personal goal on ways to reduce administrative complexity and burden in the billing and coding areas of healthcare. Again if this was all there was it would describe a close personal and professional relationship. Yet Tony was probably my chief advocate for further involvement in HFMA. It began as a plan that he presented to me on how and why I should get into the officer track to the MARI chapter of HFMA. A few years later it was why I should support HFMA by entering the Regional Executive Track for New England HFMA. And on more than one occasion he submitted my name for the National Board of HFMA. It is a good and supportive feeling to have a champion in your corner who in addition to being a friend, business partner, personal consultant, is also your champion. I would not be surprised that Tony played a similar role for others and I will miss his enthusiastic advocacy for HFMA.”

James Heffernan, FHFMA, former HFMA President


“Tony Slabacheski will be a most-remembered colleague.  He was the first person to congratulate me when I first came onto the HFMA Chapter Board and immediately took my picture!  Throughout my years at HFMA, and especially during my year as Chapter President, Tony was there to help in any way he could, to just say “hi”, to share a funny story, to serve as Chapter historian whenever outstanding questions arose and to update me on the whereabouts of other colleagues.  Tony was ever-present, sharing his talents and knowledge generously. Every now and then I’d receive  photos in the mail from various HFMA events with pictures of me with HFMA friends and colleagues, photos which I cherish.  Tony always had a smile and went out of his way to make everyone feel at home at every HFMA event.  He has given so much to our Chapter and the organization for many years and despite the changes we experience in our cherished health care world, Tony has been there to remind us of the good things that never change in our profession:  the pursuit of innovation and the importance of valued colleagues and friends.  I know Tony will be with us in spirit at every HFMA event and we will miss him very much.  Thanks for the wonderful times, Tony!”

Roberta Zysman, former HFMA President


“I had the pleasure of knowing Tony Slabacheski for over 30 years through my involvement with the HFMA. Tony was one of the kindest, welcoming people I have ever met and he enriched my HFMA experience on many occasions. Some memories come to mind:

After meeting Tony he welcomed me to HFMA wholeheartedly. In the 1980s and even the 1990s HFMA Mass chapter could be challenging to break into in terms of being part of the broader HMFA network and Tony made that transition much easier for me. As I became established in the organization and began serving on and chairing several committees Tony was always encouraging, always telling me that I really contributed to the chapter and encouraging me to become more involved in HFMA affairs and governance. I credit my being invited to the HFMA Board of Directors to Tony’s mentoring and support.

And attending HFMA events was always more enjoyable if Tony was there which was almost every event. He would inevitably introduce me to new members or prospective members. And there was always the inevitable photos with other members and friends. I lost count of how many times after an event I would receive an envelope from Tony a week or so later with some photos of me with a message of “Great photo of you and your friends. Wanted you to have a copy.” And this included all of the HFMA regional and national events that we participated in over the years. The special times included the annual Chapter Awards Dinner and the annual Chapter Presidents meeting which are the more personal events.  Always such a thoughtful guy.

I also got a glimpse of his devotion to his family. I met his son Tony at one point and almost every time I ran into Tony Sr. he would provide in detail an update on his son’s career developments and accomplishments. For several years Tony Jr and I worked at the same organization and I was fortunate enough to get to know him as well. It was great to see how he supported and mentored his family members.

I was honored to call Tony a friend and colleague. He will be very missed.”

Marvin Berkowitz, former HFMA President


“Tony was an amazing leader of our Chapter for many years. He was the keeper of our institutional memory and Chapter traditions. It always brightened my day when an envelope would arrive at the office with some great HFMA photos from past events. He was the “Dean” of our HFMA team; always making the personal connections that make HFMA so special. My sympathies and prayers to his family. He was a genuine friend, and he will be missed.”

Roger Boucher, former HFMA President


“I am very sad to hear about the passing of Tony. I joined the MA HFMA chapter in 1987 and one of the first members I met was Tony. Tony was one of the reason’s I have maintained my membership in the MA/RI chapter despite having worked in NH for more than half my career. Regardless of how long it may have been between attending a meeting, Tony was ALWAYS the first to come over with an extended handshake and later in the session looking to get a photo. As stated in the announcement, Tony defined the consummate HFMA member. He is gone too soon.”

Edward L. Dudley III, FHFMA, former HFMA President


HFMA Past President, Tony Slabacheski, has been a loyal and enthusiastic supporter of HFMA for many years. He was best known as “the man behind the camera” at HFMA meetings and social events and his many pictures were an integral component of the monthly Mass Media publication. HFMA has lost a dear friend and a wonderful man. RIP, Tony.

Gerry O’Neill, former HFMA President


“Tony will be missed for so many reasons. He was a sincere person. He cared about others and truly enjoyed being with old friends. He never changed. He always had a smile on his face and had a good word to say about everybody. Rest In Peace, Tony.”

Larry McManus, former HFMA President


“Tony was always a bright and friendly face at HFMA MA RI meetings.  His kind and gentle nature made me feel welcome.  He would often send me printed photos of the meetings to my office during my year as president which was great to receive. These photos always made me smile. His thoughtfulness will always be remembered. Tony was a role model, and an HFMA steward.  He was so giving of his time, and a true gentleman.  I am grateful for having known him.”

Rosemary Rotty, FHFMA, former HFMA President


“Tony was always a smiling familiar face at every HFMA event.  He would take the time to send pics directly to me when I served on the Board and I will always remember him as part of my HFMA family.”

Deborah Wilson, former HFMA President


“Tony impacted so many lives both personally and professionally. He was a terrific, graceful man. He will be missed especially when we are able to get together again.”

Jerry Vitti, former HFMA President


“He was a fixture at the Region’s annual conferences and he will be missed. Tony was one of the first folks I met outside of the Connecticut chapter (I believe it was some time during the Precambrian era) and he gave me a great framework of the regional makeup and how HFMA worked beyond the local chapter level.”

Michael Rosadini, former Regional Executive


“Tony was a good person who did a lot for the MA-RI chapter and will be missed by all.”

Tom Zubricki, former HFMA President


“We lost one of the great ones. I’m saddened to hear about Tony and shocked at the 82 years of age when he passed. I always thought he was in his early 70’s. Tony always had a camera with him and a story to share whether it was the newest and latest idea he was involved in, a personal story about a golf event or person he knew.  When Tony took my picture, a few weeks later tucked in my mailbox was an envelope with his return address and inside were pictures from an event he photographed. He was so considerate and thoughtful to mail out those pictures where most of us would just e-mail them. He’ll be missed that’s for sure. It wouldn’t be an HFMA event without Tony taking pictures and socializing with everyone. It’s like losing an HFMA Uncle….”

Jennifer Samaras, current HFMA Board Member