By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Ronald and Fred Anthony of Elida died doing what they were known for; lending a helping hand to the community.
The two brothers were on their way back from gathering sand at the Pecos River, to help build a new playground for the Elida First United Methodist Church Thursday afternoon, when they were killed in a two vehicle crash on U.S. 70 near mile marker 380 in Chaves County.
“That’s what they did,” said Fred’s eldest son Mark Anthony, speaking of his father and uncle’s helpful nature.
According to New Mexico State Police, Fred Anthony, 72, was driving a 1965 Chevy dump truck east on U.S. 70 with brother Ronald Anthony, 76, as passenger, when for undetermined reasons their truck was rear-ended by a semi driven by 50-year-old David Wright of Portales.
The crash caused the dump truck to overturn onto the east dirt shoulder ejecting the Anthony brothers.
The semi crossed over the center dirt median and westbound lanes, coming to a stop on the shoulder of the highway. Wright was taken to Roosevelt General Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, police said.
The crash, which took place at approximately 3:45 p.m., forced closing U.S. 70 in all directions for about nine hours.
The impact of the Anthony brothers on Elida and surrounding communities was evident Saturday morning as the Anthony family sifted through dozens of dishes sent out of love and respect, filling both refrigerators and overflowing the kitchen countertop of Ronald’s house.
According to the family, the supportive phone calls have been non-stop since Thursday and more than 300 people attended their burial Friday.
“This community is incredible,” said Glenda Anthony, Ronald’s wife.
“Just one big family,” added Molly Anthony, Fred’s wife.
Family members said the Anthony name has been a staple in the Elida community since 1902, when their elders homesteaded there.
The Anthony brothers contributed to that legacy through their dedication to the community and Methodist church.
According to family members, the brothers were inseparable, sharing many common interests.
Both of them were farmers and ranchers, civically involved on community boards, shared a love for classic vehicles and would do anything to help their family and community.
Mark Anthony recalled when a bad storm hit Elida several years ago that left many without power for weeks, his father Fred voluntarily used his generator to provide power for the elderly.
In addition to helping others, the family said another one of Fred’s joys was an old school bus that he rebuilt from scratch.
“He would tell you about it for three or four hours or as long as you’d let him go,” Mark Anthony said.
The Anthony brothers’ school bus and antique vehicles have been used in Eastern New Mexico University’s homecoming parades as well as other car shows and community events.
Both men were strong Christians and never knew a stranger, according to the family. Their lives revolved around their children and grandchildren and anything to do with the community, which they considered their family.
“There’s been some struggles, both have been through droughts, losing sons, but they had faith for everything,” said John D. Anthony, Fred’s son.
Pat Stevenson came from Missouri to pay respect to his cousins, whom he considered his uncles. Stevenson said Ronald taught him how to drive, milk a cow and shoot a rifle.
“Coming out here was the highlight of my year growing up,” said Stevenson, who’s originally from New Orleans.
Cherry Eckland, Ronald’s daughter, said this tragedy is very hard for her family because the two men ran such a strong patriarchy.
“There was this assumption that if one went, the other would take care of us,” an emotional Eckland said.
The family offered kind last words to the ones that held the family together.
“They were so open emotionally,” Eckland said.
Fred’s children agreed that the men never hesitated to tell people they loved them.
“They both were just full of love,” Glenda Anthony said tearfully.
“And they supported everyone in everything they did,” added Ronald’s granddaughter, Sarah Anderson.
The family expects to see a major turnout for the brothers’ memorial 3 p.m. Monday at the Elida School gym.
Fred’s daughter-in-law Beth Anthony said Elida’s first day of school has been moved back a day so the town can pay their respects to the men.