How one man’s “itchy feet” gave birth to Great Southern Wood

Anthony J. Rane

1916 - 2011

In the Spring of 1907, a 29-year-old Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Reina left Cammarata, a small village in Sicily, in search of a better life for his wife and children. His search would bring him to America.

Settling in Madison, Wisconsin, and finding work as a laborer, Giuseppe worked for years before saving enough money to bring his wife and two sons to America. Reunited in 1912, Giuseppe (whose name was changed to Joseph Rane at Ellis Island) and wife Concetta would raise seven children, teaching them lessons of honesty, integrity and accountability, of love of God, country and family.

Their son Tony (called "Mr. Tony" by his friends) inherited his father’s penchant for travel, and his travels took him across the country from Los Angeles to New York City. He crossed paths with notorious gangster Al Capone, musicians Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, actress Tallulah Bankhead and many others before settling down in his wife’s hometown of Abbeville, Alabama, following his discharge from the Army Medical Corps at the end of World War II.

Mr. Tony and Ms. Libba would raise two boys, Jimmy and Greg, in this small town. Through their father’s example as an astute businessman, their children would grow Great Southern Wood Preserving from a backyard treating plant with sales of $22,000 into the largest producer of pressure treated pine in the nation. Mr. Tony’s example of helping those in need was the inspiration behind the establishment of the Jimmy Rane Foundation in 2000 and, as a result, over 150 deserving students have been able to chase their dreams of a college education.

Mr. Tony died on July 12, 2011, just before what would have been his 95th birthday. Yet he continued to make an impression even near the end. One of the last people he met was Hollywood icon, Ernest Borgnine, a fellow nonagenarian who shared his Italian heritage. Borgnine had come to the area in May to lend support for the Jimmy Rane Foundation and made a special trip to Abbeville to meet its inspiration.

To read more of Mr. Tony’s fascinating story and to assist the Jimmy Rane Foundation in its efforts, order your copy of Mr. Tony’s Lessons of La Famiglia today at www.mrtonybook.com. All proceeds from book sales go directly to the Foundation’s scholarship fund.

From a small town in Italy to a small town in Alabama (with a few stops in between), what began with “itchy feet” and a search for a better life ended in the American Dream. Mr. Tony has been more than Great Southern’s inspiration; he has been our soul.