Anthony Filippis, Sr., founder of Wright & Filippis, came from an immigrant Italian family of eight children. His father found work in Henry Ford’s factories, but Tony Filippis was determined to run his own business. Success finally came in the form of one of the country’s most-respected healthcare companies – but this dream was not without its nightmarish moments.
The story behind Tony Filippis’ incredible journey from a poor Depression-era youngster to a respected businessman and advocate for the disabled community dates back to April 29, 1929. That is the day 13-yearold Tony wandered away from the safety of his family’s Detroit home, tempted fate, and forever altered the course of history for generations of disabled citizens.
“Some neighborhood kids came by and talked me into going swimming,” Filippis once recalled. “We hopped the train near Louisiana and Brush to ride to the swimming hole at Seven Mile, but the train was moving too fast to jump off.
“We ended up near Nine Mile and Hilton in Ferndale, when suddenly the train jerked, and I fell and grabbed the coupling as my feet slapped the tracks. I climbed back up and someone yelled, ‘Look! Your feet!’ They were mangled beyond recognition, and later they had to be amputated below the knees.”
As a double-amputee, Filippis experienced the discrimination and heartache frequently confronted by persons with disabilities, fueling his passion for protecting civil rights. His passion for this cause was learned at an early age.
“Things were different in those days,” Filippis once said. “I hired in at a lot of places, but when they found out I had artificial legs, they fired me.”
Seemingly unable to help support his family, Filippis took his anger and frustration to Carl Wright, a friend who worked at Martin-Halstead Co. and the gentleman who had made Tony’s artificial legs. Upon sensing Tony’s despair, Wright offered Tony a job as an apprentice. The two men worked together for 10 years before forming their own company - Wright & Filippis.
Eventually, Tony Filippis’ unwavering commitment to assisting the disabled community – along with his keen business savvy – helped build Wright & Filippis into one the nation’s most successful private medical enterprises. From those beginnings, Wright & Filippis has grown into one of the only companies in the United States that offers total equipment services for persons with disabilities – from computer-designed artificial limbs to homecare equipment, from installation of wheelchair ramps to educating healthcare professionals and the public about all aspects of rehabilitation services.
Carl Wright passed away in 1959, and Tony Filippis worked tirelessly to support persons with disabilities until his death on January 23, 2007. Today, Tony’s son, A.J., daughter, Nancy, and three generations of the Filippis family continue the company’s unrelenting quest to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Helping to give people their freedom and independence is still the foremost principle of our business,” said A.J. Filippis, President and CEO. “Without question, we will carry on my father’s legacy of hard work, putting the needs of the customer first, and making the world a better place for everyone.”