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History Through Our Eyes: May 25, 1979, The Great Antonio takes a bus

“The Great Antonio takes a bus” read the headline under this photo by Arne Glassbourg, published in the Montreal Gazette on May 25, 1979. And indeed, the Great Antonio’s concept of taking a bus was, let us say, a bit different from that of most other people.

The strongman’s many feats amazed Montrealers over the years. In this instance, we reported, “Montreal Urban Community Transit Commission bus drive René Babeu stared in disbelief last night as a giant of a man walked up the middle of Ste-Catherine St. toward his No. 15 bus, hooked a heavy chain to the front bumper of the 20-ton vehicle and pulled it a city block.” No matter that there were passengers on the bus. The performance — “a free show for the people,” the strongman called it — attracted a large crowd at Peel and Ste-Catherine Sts., we wrote.

At six feet, four inches tall and weighing 510 pounds, he was not someone many would argue with, we noted.

When the Great Antonio died of heart failure at the age of 77, in September 2003, the tributes poured in for the Croatian-born strongman, whose family name was Barichievich. In a front-page column in our Sept. 17 edition, Mike Boone wrote that Montrealers flocked to the visitation: “In addition to television crews — TQS did a live midday hit from the visitation room — there were Goth girls, muscle boys and sentimental seniors.”

Although he had died penniless, the Great Antonio received a proper funeral thanks to the generosity of a donor to Sun Youth and of the Urgel Bourgie funeral home, Boone wrote.

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