Mariner football stadium rededicated in the memory of Tony McKenna
Twenty years have passed since one Pine Island teen lost his life leaving a Cape football field
On Sept. 5, 1989, Tony Mckenna was struck and killed by lighting while exiting the practice field at Mariner High School. Friday, the field at Mariner was rededicated as Tony McKenna Football Stadium in honor of the student athlete.
McKenna’s mother, Jean McKenna, hopes that the rededication will serve as a reminder to the parents and coaches who are responsible for the safety of children and teenagers.
“The kids who are playing on that field today weren’t even born yet when my son was struck by lightning,” McKenna said. “I would like to think that the rededication will serve as a reminder that it is up to us to keep these kids safe. We need to keep an eye on the weather meter and make sure the kids stop practice and head to safety when lightning is a threat. No practice or game is worth the life of a child.”
Jean and her husband, Richard, are long-time residents of Bokeelia.
The rededication took place at Mariner High School before the season opener against Cape Coral High School. The field was originally dedicated to McKenna in November 1989 and each season a scholarship for football players, also credited to the honor of McKenna, is presented to deserving athletes.
According to an article that appeared in the Sept. 13, 1989, issue of the Pine Island Eagle, McKenna was struck by lightning at 5:30 p.m. after having taken a last run at the tackling shack. Emergency workers and a police officer tried to revive McKenna but he was pronounced dead an hour and a half later at Cape Coral Hospital. An investigation was conducting following McKenna’s death and it was determined that the coach had followed the school safety manual and no fault was placed on the coach or the school.
This practice was to prepare the Mariner team to face the Cape Coral High School team in the season opener. Instead of the scheduled Friday night football game, however, a memorial service took place to remember McKenna.
In November 1989 the football field at Mariner High School was dedicated to McKenna’s memory and a memorial scholarship fund was established.
Long-time resident Elsie Stearns remembers how the Pine Island community reacted when the news arrived about McKenna’s death.
“There were a lot of kids here on the island that knew Tony and they were devastated. I knew his family and I think the rededication is a great tribute to a wonderful family,” said Stearns. “Everyone had great things to say about the young man and Tony will forever remain in our minds and hearts.
The rededication ceremony was conducted from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and began with a walk out to look at the new obelisk in McKenna’s honor that has replaced the original. Afterward, Mariner High School Athletic Director Vito Mennona said a few words to the crowd in the bleachers. Just before the kick-off, the Army JROTC Triton Battalion Color Guard also presented the colors.
McKenna was 17 and a senior at Mariner at the time of his death and had resided in the area for 15 years.