Antonio (Tony) Joseph Mendez passed away at the age of 78 on January 19, 2019 of Parkinson’s disease while in the care of Hospice in Frederick, MD. Tony was born on 15 November 1940 in Eureka, Nevada – named “The loneliest town on the loneliest road in America,” by National Geographic magazine. Born to Neva June Tognoni and her husband John George Mendez, he would eventually have five siblings.
Tony went to Englewood High School in Denver, CO., and briefly attended University of Colorado at Boulder. Years later he would be awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the school. Tony married Karen Smith in 1960 and they had three children: Amanda Lynn of Smithsburg, MD, Antonio Tobias (Toby) of Knoxville, MD and Ian Archer, deceased. Karen died in 1986 and in 1990 he married Jonna Hiestand, who survives him after a marriage of 27 years. They had one son, Jesse Lee Mendez of Charles Town, WV. Two grandchildren, Kace McField and Phillip McField of Knoxville, MD, also survive him.
His siblings include Cindy (Mendez) Violante of Mesa, AZ, Maureen (Richie) Bybee of San Andres, CA, and his sister Nancy (Richie) Wilson of Elko, NV. His brother John F. Mendez and his sister Joey (Mendez) Ross preceded him in death.
Tony worked as an artist for Martin Marietta in Denver before responding to an ad in the paper for an artist to work overseas for the Navy. When he responded, he discovered it was the CIA and began a career of worldwide travel and international operations that culminated in the movie called “Argo,” which won the Academy Award in 2013 for Best Picture with Ben Affleck playing Tony in the film. Tony was awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Star and designated one of their “Trailblazers,” a group of 50 officers in the agency’s first 50 years that shaped the CIA. He counted his life’s passions on three fingers: art, espionage, and golf, and in the 50 years he was active in painting he created and sold thousands of works of art. In his retirement he added a fourth category – author. His three existing books will be joined by one more, to be published posthumously in May. He was a founding board member of the International Spy Museum where an exhibit to honor him is being installed.
He will be missed terribly by his friends and family. In lieu of flowers, we request that donations be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. The family is planning a private reception at home for friends, followed by interment at the family graveyard out west in the future.