Anthony Alexander Jr. was 16 when he rescued two children who fell into icy water in a Collingdale Park pond on Feb. 21, 2022.
Alexander was lauded as a hero. But his life was cut short by an accidental gunshot last January. He was watching an Eagles game with his friends playing with a loaded gun at a party.
But Alexander will not be forgotten.
An event is planned for 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 9 at Collingdale Park near the pond where he saved the children from drowning. A bench and plaque will be dedicated in his honor. By all accounts, Alexander was a modest young man who wanted to join the Marine Corps after high school.
After rescuing the children, his grandmother said he told her, “I was just glad I was there.”
New York-based artist Steve Alpert met Anthony Alexander Sr. and his wife Ava at a dinner in Washington, D.C., in March, where Anthony Jr. was posthumously presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Young Hero award. After watching a video about Anthony Jr., Alpert felt compelled to paint his portrait and spoke to the Alexanders.
“All of a sudden, I realized Anthony was not there,” said Alpert. “His parents were on the stage accepting the award, and Anthony was killed on January 29.”
Alpert approached the couple and said he was an artist and would like to make a portrait of their son and gave them his card. About a week later, Alexander called him and sent him some photos.
It took a while for Alpert, who works in oil on canvas, to begin painting. He has some other projects underway.
“And I really wanted to think about it because it was such a powerful story,” said Alpert. “This young, heroic man, a young fellow, had his life cut short. He was going to join the Marines when he left high school.”
“Apparently, he was a very popular fellow and had leadership qualities, and he was a wonderful guy,” said Alpert. “And, you know, it exemplifies the ‘only the good die young’ thing.”
“So I thought about the painting for two months,” he said. “And then I got it, and I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to do, and it happened very quickly because I did all the mental preparation,” said Alpert.
When he showed the picture to some friends, one of them suggested that he have a T-shirt made with the image with money going to a gun reform organization.
Another friend suggested the Sandy Hook Promise group.
Alpert’s brother-in-law, Pastor Bill Devlin, helped Alexander set up a charitable corporation to hold the money from selling the T-shirts until it is donated. A graphic designer and a T-shirt printer have donated their services.
“So, even though he is no longer with us, Anthony can still help people,” said Alpert.
Cynthia “Chintz” Bell-Bucha, Alpert’s representative, said Alpert has raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars” with his artwork for various causes over the years.
On his website, Alpert said, “These are paintings I feel compelled to make to raise consciousness about men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. These paintings have also created welcome opportunities for me to give back—through donations of my artwork. I have been able to directly support causes that aid the men and women of our military and their families, including the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and Fisher House Foundation.”
Alpert has been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for its 2024 Distinguished Citizen Award for all his philanthropic work, said Bell-Bucha. The award goes to people whose lives have made a difference. Her husband, Paul “Buddy” Bucha, was a recipient for his actions while serving as an Army Ranger in Vietnam.
“He’s not going to make any money off (the T-shirt),” she said. “Nor would he want to.”
The proceeds will go to Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control nonprofit founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
“I think it’s important for people to know (that) there are really artists out there that are social activists and like to make sure their art serves a purpose,” she said.
The T-shirts with Anthony Alexander Jr.’s portrait will be available for sale at the Sept. 9 event, which Alpert and Bell-Bucha also plan to attend.
And the portrait’s title? “Unfinished”–just like Anthony Alexander Jr.’s life.