Anthony John Illia

February 24, 1969July 29, 2021
Obituary of Anthony John Illia
Anthony John “Tony” Illia, 52, an award-winning journalist, writer, communications specialist and public face in the Las Vegas community, died unexpectedly in that city on July 29 from heart related issues. Born on February 24,1969, in Sacramento, Calif., Tony was one of two children, including younger brother Vincent, of Elizabeth Garth and John Edward Illia Jr. His father was a Class 8 truck and trailer salesman, marketer and industry expert for more than 40 years. His parents were married for over 50 years until John Illia’s death in December 2018. Tony grew up in Reno, Nev., graduating from Reno High School in 1987. He developed a strong dedication to exercise as a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger and took up weightlifting, football, wrestling and martial arts. He always made time for a good workout. Tony began his collegiate career at the University of Nevada-Reno, but transferred to Nazareth College in Rochester, New York to further pursue study of Italian language and literature. He was president of the Avanti Italian Club at the college and a talented poet published in Verity, a literary arts journal. Tony graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1992. Tony returned to northern Nevada for graduate school, earning a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Nevada-Reno in 1996. While there, he was Humanities Representative of the Graduate Student Association and Editing Assistant on Modern Language Association’s Hamlet Variorum, which was funded by a $1-million National Endowment for the Arts grant. Tony was named to Who’s Who Among US Graduate Students and was contributing writer for the university’s Sagebrush newspaper. After graduation, Tony moved to Las Vegas where his career began to flourish. His passion for writing had developed into journalism, and he became a contributing editor for several publications, including Nevada Business Journal, Vegas Inc., Architecture Las Vegas, Desert Companion, American Infrastructure, Roads & Bridges, Rocky Mountain Construction, California Builder & Engineer, Vegas magazine, BLVD, and 944, among others. Finding his stride in telling stories and communicating details, he developed a deep interest in the built environment and became known for his expertise in construction, architecture, commercial real estate development and engineering. From 1999 through 2013, Tony was senior real estate development reporter for Stephens Media Group, and an editorial contributor to Las Vegas Business Press, Las Vegas CityLife and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His work gained notice as he received recognition from the Nevada Press Association, earning its First Place Award in 2005 for best business news story; and Third Place award the following year for best explanatory journalism. He also twice gained the Gold Hermes Creative Award for Best Feature Article from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals in 2009 and 2012. Tony was also named Real Estate Reporter of the Year in 2006 by the Nevada chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. With his construction industry expertise and communication skill, Tony served as Public Relations Director for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Las Vegas chapter twice, from 1997 to 2000 and from 2011 to 2014. He also was the Public Relations and Marketing Director for the Nevada Contractors Association. Additionally, Tony became the publisher and managing editor of Nevada Contractor (2000-2014); co-publisher and managing editor of Southern Nevada Real Estate Monthly (2004-2008); and founder and publisher of Power Broker Confidential (2013-2015). As a member of the University of Nevada –Las Vegas Construction and Engineering Industry Advisory Board Member beginning in 2005, Tony was the only non-practicing engineer, contractor and or architect appointed to the 28-member panel. He saw the position as a way to support the program and industry efforts to promote construction careers through public outreach, financial assistance and mentoring. In a career phase Tony considered especially prestigious and challenging, he worked with media giant McGraw-Hill for 14 years as special correspondent and contributor to its noted construction group and financial publications—Engineering News-Record, Architectural Record, Contractor Business Quarterly, ENR Southwest, ENR California, Design-Build, BusinessWeek and Constructor. His work twice earned him the Robert F. Boger Journalism Award from the Construction Writers Association, in 2000 and 2009; and Silver Awards for best feature article and best news article, as well as recognitions from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, among others. ENR’s online obituary that includes links to his past articles. Link: 2009 City Center safety article: Most recently, Tony took a position as the Nevada Dept. of Transportation (NDOT) leading public information officer in the southern part of the state, including the Las Vegas Valley and Clark, Lincoln, Esmeralda, Mineral and Nye counties. Serving in the role for the past seven years, he managed public outreach, communications and media relations for the agency at the forefront of major transportation growth in the state and serving community information needs on a 24/7 basis. His efforts included communication for such major state projects as Interstate 11, which was the first new infrastructure added to the Interstate Highway System since it was deemed complete in 1992 and the nearly $1-billion Project Neon, addressing the busiest stretch of highway in Nevada. Nearly two decades in the making, it is the largest public works job ever undertaken in the state’s 155-year history. Also under his purview was the final phase of the nine-year, $300-million Centennial Bowl interchange that links US Highway 95 and the 215 Beltway in northwest Las Vegas. Tony had a busy life and relished his numerous achievements, but he loved being with his family—whether traveling to see the Cubs Major League baseball team play in Chicago (go Cubs), attending the annual Illia family picnic in Northern Nevada or participating with his mother at the annual New Yorker Book Festival in New York City, to name a few. Tony met the love of his life and future wife, Luetta Callaway, through mutual friends in 1998, and they married in 2006 at a ceremony at Utah’s Zion National Park. They lived life to the fullest as best friends—exploring museums, searching out architecture, playing in national parks and at Gulf Shores, Alabama, and attending the Utah Shakespeare Festival, LA Book Festival, Cubs games, live music concerts, movies and many other adventures. They lived and loved in Las Vegas with their two unruly black cats, Jasper and Jinx But when alone at their cabin in the local mountains, Tony would read to Luetta as they experienced and enjoyed the beauty and bounty of nature. Tony is also survived by his mother, brother, uncle and aunt Kevin and Pam Illia, and aunt and uncle Kathy and Jack Shea and extended family. His many friends, business associates and professional colleagues also mourn his untimely death. A commemoration of Tony’s life will be held on August 29 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Palm South Jones Mortuary Event Center, 1600 South Jones Boulevard in Las Vegas. The event will be live streamed on Facebook at Obituary for Anthony Illia, under memorial service, click link for JOIN LIVESTREAM. The family would especially love for you to reach out and share a story or memory about Tony at: A memorial service for Anthony will be held Sunday, August 29, 2021 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM at Palm South Jones Mortuary Event Center, 1600 South Jones Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89146, followed by a reception from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Illia family.

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