by: Maureen Halsema Meyer 2006
Born, July 30, 1889 in Bushnell, Florida, Anthony (Tony) was the third child of Lambertus and Maria Halsema. Anthony grew up inSan Antonio, Florida, helping in the family general store and attending St Leo’s College (pdf) (a high school at the time). After graduation, Anthony went to Jacksonville to work with his older siblings in construction. In 1908 he was sent by the company to St. Augustine to renovate the convent and school there.
During his work on the convent he met Grace Leonardi, a senior at the school. While their time together in St. Augustine was short, Anthony and Grace corresponded over the years.
Following the death of his father in 1916 Anthony returned to San Antonio to help his mother with the family general store. They soon decided to sell it and move to Miami. In Miami Anthony and his brother, Ben, returned to the construction trade. Anthony was soon leaving Miami however as in April of 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and joined WWI. Anthony, like many other young Halsemas joined the fray by enlisting in the U.S. Army Engineers on March 5, 1918. A PFC, Anthony trained at Camp Jackson, SC before shipping out for France. During the war, the engineers built things like barracks and stables during daylight hours and at night would go out and rebuild the bridges that German troops had bombed earlier in the day. He was honorably discharged on June 11, 1919.
Returning to Miami, Anthony began Halsema Brothers Construction, eventually building two of his family homes. Over the years since leaving Jacksonville, he had continued corresponding and visiting Grace. On September 14, 1925 they married at the St. Augustine Cathedral. He and Grace would live their lives out in Miami. Together they would weather the Great Depression and raise 4 children; Anthony Jr., Lester, Grace Marie and Donald. The couple worked hard to provide for their children as well as help support family members and friends. These were simpler times in a small southern town and life revolved around family and their church community at Gesu Catholic Church (pdf) in downtown Miami.
Anthony died on June 7, 1955 in Miami and was survived by his wife and children.