Stolen Backpack Contains WWII Manuscript About Teacher's Family

Bernie Tafoya
December 06, 2019 - 3:49 pm

(Toni LiFonti)


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A west suburban teacher is hoping for a miracle to find a stolen backpack containing everything that’s meaningful to him in life besides his family.

Tony LiFonti, an English teacher at Glenbard North High School, has been working on finishing a book he has written about his grandparents’ World War II love story.

“It’s about my grandfather, a WWII love story, how he gets enlisted in the Army, how he meets her in Italy and how he survives the war to come back to her," LiFonti said. 

And, because he likes to write every free moment he gets, LiFonti said he had his backpack with him Monday night when he came into the city to meet a college roommate for dinner in the River West neighborhood. 

But, since LiFonti was running late, there was no time for writing. He left his Glenbard North wrestling backpack inside his 2019 black Chevy Colorado pick-up truck. He said he covered the backpack with his coat and parked along Union Avenue near Grand Avenue.

“When I came out an hour and a half later, at around 9:15, my window was shattered and I didn’t even know it was shattered until I had already driven off a little bit and felt a breeze,” the 44-year-old teacher and author said. “My stomach hollowed out, just hollowed out.”

Inside that backpack, besides a written version of his book, "Man of Duty," was his laptop, an external hard drive, several actual love letters his grandparents had sent to each other during World War II, and pigeoneer messages, communications that would have been sent by pigeon from one military unit to another.

Tony LiFonti
Tony LiFonti

The laptop and external drive also had on them 23 years worth of teaching materials LiFonti had accumulated plus a more than 50-year history of the wrestling program at Glenbard North High School, not to mention all his undergraduate and graduate work.

“The things that mean the most to me besides from my family, were taken,” he said.

LiFonti said he felt the worst telling his father that his own father’s possessions and story were stolen. He said his father was “gracious” and encouraged him to go about redoing the book starting with a rough draft he still had at home.

LiFonti returned to the River West area Wednesday in the hopes of finding the stolen items.

"I walked around. I went through garbage cans, dumpsters, talked to homeless people, took them out to lunch, tried to make some good connections,” he said. 

Tony LiFonti
Tony LiFonti

So far, LiFonti has had no luck in finding any of the items.

He’s offering a reward of an undisclosed amount for the return of the contents of the backpack.

LiFonti described the backpack as “a Cliff Keen wrestling backpack. It’s called The Beast. It has our Glenbard North wrestling logo on it. It’s black and gray.”

He said the laptop has a 17-inch screen and, “has a Batman sticker in the middle. It’s got some Pearl Jam, Metallica stickers, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, so it’s very identifiable.”

LiFonti has written other books. According to his LinkedIn page, he has written five children’s books with former Chicago Bear cornerback Charles Tillman, with a percentage of all profits going to the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. The titles of those books are "*Snowy Bear and the Lost Scart," "Pirate Bear and the Treasure Hunt," "Beach Bear and the Sand Castle," "Scary Bear and the Pumpkin Patch" amd "Lovie Bear and the Valentine’s Day Card." 

Tony LiFonti
Tony LiFonti