When folks in and around the Elm City were down on their luck and stranded without a ride, Anthony S. “Tony” Signore was there to help, those who knew him say.

Signore, a Keene resident and owner of Tony’s Taxi, died last Thursday at the age of 77.

He was originally from Rhode Island, and worked as a car dealer there before settling in Keene, where he eventually set up his taxi business, according to his obituary.

Good friend Peter Pillsbury said he met Signore while working at the Keene Chrysler dealership in the early ’90s when Signore was working as a vehicle wholesaler.

Pillsbury chuckled when recalling his first impression of the man.

“A guy that’s 5 feet-nothing, but walked around like he was 10 feet tall,” Pillsbury, of Keene, said.

Both Pillsbury and Signore’s life partner, Susan Goodchild — who also lives in Keene and is now running the business — said he had a deep sense of empathy, and would often give free rides to those who needed one but couldn’t afford it.

“If somebody was down and out, he’d cheer them up,” Goodchild said. “If somebody needed a safe ride to go home because they had a little too much to drink, he made sure they got in safe. If, you know, somebody needed groceries at the store, he’d pick them up. He was just so kind and wonderful.”

Many of these rides, Pillsbury said, came with no credit system required.

“He did it on the house until they got to a point where they abused it,” he said.

Steve Lindsey, a former area cab driver who met Signore when they were both working for Adventure Taxi, said he experienced this generosity personally.

“I’d be walking home in a snowstorm, and he’d come up behind me,” said Lindsey, who left taxi-driving in the rear-view after nearly a decade. Despite his having no money for the fare, Lindsey said, “he’d give me a ride home.”

Goodchild recalled Signore ferrying patients home from the emergency room at 3 a.m. when they didn’t have a wallet or any other personal belongings with them.

For the paying customers, she said Signore went out of his way to be accommodating — keeping tabs on appointments at Cheshire Medical Center or even hair salons and making sure those without any other mode of transportation could be on time.

And over the course of all his years behind the wheel, he picked up a nickname.

“He was the king of the cab drivers,” Lindsey said, likening him to another well-known driver, Joanie Copley of Ideal Taxi Co. “Once (Copley) passed, Tony became the icon of the night.”

He had style and grace, dignity and pride — a debonair man with a larger-than-life personality that made Keene a more interesting place, according to Lindsey.

Another endearing quality, Goodchild noted, was Signore’s near-savant-like knowledge of American geography, including every state capital.

“He was just so funny. He had such stories to tell from all of the traveling when he was a car salesman,” Goodchild said. “He’d been in every state, and he could tell you the capital, and somebody would say where they’re from, and he’d say, ‘I know where that is!’ And name it right off. He could remember the buildings in that city and what he went to see. It was amazing.”

She added that when Signore hit hard times of his own, the good faith he put in the community came back around to support him, particularly at his favorite sandwich shop.

After Signore suffered congestive heart failure, Goodchild said he had to have a leg amputated because of a blood clot. He was sidelined from the business and had trouble keeping up with medical bills, she said.

That’s when D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches on West Street stepped in, according to Goodchild, with a donation jar that raised $1,200 to help with his expenses.

“He was always for the underdog,” she said. “He always helped anybody that needed help, and he was just an amazing guy. He never judged anybody.”

And his illness and surgery didn’t keep him off the road for good. Rather than use a modified vehicle, Signore preferred to drive with his left leg, according to Goodchild.

Now running the business with two other drivers, she said she hopes the Tony’s Taxi sign emblazoned on the side of the cars will remind people of her partner and his generous spirit.

“We have him pictured in the heavens with his own Tony’s Taxi up there.”

Jake Lahut can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or jlahut@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JakeLahut.