Page 1 of 3
[UPDATED 8/11/12 11:45 p.m. ET/8:45 p.m PT w/comments from Diane Forgy, Ron and Brandan Stein, Wade Randolph and Carolyn Nelson below]
PHILADELPHIA — Tom Mazza — a revered name and brand deeply associated with the U.S. limousine industry for the many roles and titles he held over a stacked and dynamic career — died Saturday at his home in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was 53.
Mazza succumbed to complications related to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died around midday ET surrounded by family members.Mazza's death was announced by close friend and colleague Jason Sharenow on Facebook. Sharenow had visited Mazza frequently in his final weeks and represented his interests.
Mazza's first neurological symptoms developed in mid-2011 when he lost his voice; he had devoted much of the last year of his life working with multiple doctors and specialists trying to determine an accurate diagnosis and find remedies. In recent months, the symptoms had spread, gradually weakening him.
Mazza died knowing he was widely loved, respected and appreciated throughout the industry. Despite not being able to speak or eat in his final days, Mazza could listen to and comprehend the hundreds of texts and e-mails flashing in from friends and well-wishers nationwide that he could read or have read to him from his smartphone by devotees at his bedside. He was able to text and e-mail short responses and messages, as recently as July 30, and write on a clipboard.
Tom Mazza served in so many varied roles that he became in many respects the chauffeured transportation industry’s expert and sage — a brilliant, forceful, energetic, sometimes feisty mover and shaker who lived and breathed the limousine industry. But to his abundant friends and admirers, he was simply known as a generous, big-hearted, straight-talker from Philly named “Tommy.”
A journalism major who started out as a chauffeur and an operator in Philadelphia in the late 1980s, Mazza rose to become a national chauffeur trainer, author of his namesake, trademarked chauffeur training program; an educator and speaker who led the seminars and sessions for the annual Limo Digest Show in Atlantic City, N.J.; a business broker who arranged sales and mergers of limousine companies; a consultant and financial advisor who led popular operator roundtables that boosted the service quality and financial performance of numerous limousine companies nationwide; a prolific, award-winning business writer who worked as the East Coast editor of LCT Magazine and later as a contributor to Limousine Digest; an administrator who once served as executive director of the National Limousine Association; a strident, opinionated advocate of industry interests and agendas who was a fixture at limo trade shows; an entrepreneur who founded his own consultancy and helped start Limocart.com, an online chauffeured booking service; and a champion networker and liaison who made countless friends and sparked many a fruitful business relationship and affiliate connection throughout the industry.
Mazza brought passionate intensity and street smarts to his numerous industry roles, generating a career of notable professional contributions that tracked an industry evolving since the early 1990s from a fraternal, informal business village to a larger, more diverse transportation business sector. Mazza played a major role in the transformation of the industry in the last two decades.
Reactions to his death and recollections of his life among industry friends and associates are coming in waves as so many people knew him and have much to say. [LCT will update with comments as we get them].
LCT PHOTOS OF TOM MAZZA
COLUMN: Jim Luff Remembers Tom Mazza
LCT Facebook Tribute
NLA President Diane Forgy commented Saturday evening: "When I went to see Tom in early July, I let him know how many industry friends are thinking of him and praying for him and his family. How much love and respect for him we had and what a big difference he made in our lives and our businesses. I wanted him know how much he had to be proud of and although I think he knew that I hope it was nice to hear. I first worked with Tom on the NLA board in 2003 when he was the executive director. The following year I joined the original twenty group, the Limousine Success Group which he facilitated. I was nothing short of awestruck by his grasp of the issues, his ability to command a room and his deep caring for those in the industry. As much camaraderie he had with major operators it was the empathy and respect he had for the small and struggling operator as well as the chauffeurs and front line staff that was most enlightening.
"My moments with Tom were fewer and far between but they were no less meaningful. I think all of us had our special moments with Tom. When our twenty group came to Kansas City, he relished in the culture and history of the community. He really got connected with our staff when he spent an extra day training. I think that was when he was his happiest and proudest. There were many special thoughts and feelings shared and there will be an appropriate time to make that public. I am a better person for knowing Tom both in business and as a human being. I think I learned more from Tom in his final moments that will have a greater impact on my life.
"More importantly my thoughts and prayers are with his brother Mark, sister Marion as well as his dear friend and "sister" Yvonne who have been by his side for so many weeks. What an amazing team and loving support system. We should all be blessed with their dedication and unconditional love. One thing I will share that he said was 'family is everything.' We are all for the better and owe a huge debt to Tom. He was an amazingly proud man with a tough exterior but deep down I think he hoped for a kinder, gentler and accepting community in the industry. That may be his greatest legacy."
Ron and Brandan Stein, owners of Exclusive Sedan in Los Angeles, befriended Tom, and according to Brandan, “He was considered family. He helped me grow our fleet of seven cars to a fleet of 39 at our peak," Brandan said. "Sometimes I would email Tom questions and he would always write back right away after analyzing each situation and tell me what to do." Brandan went on to say that Tom bettered everyone as a person.
Brandan’s father, NLA board member Ron Stein, considered Tom to be a little brother to him but yet a big brother to Brandan. “He taught Brandan things I would have never thought of," Ron said. "He was truly a mentor to Brandan.” The connection between the Stein family and Tom is deep. Ron said his family has been sending Tom photos, such as a heart drawn in the sand of the Southern California beach that says, “We love you Tommy,” and photos of grandchildren blowing kisses. The Stein’s wanted Tom to have very happy memories in his last days.
Wade Randolph, owner of Riverside Limousines in Baton Rouge, La., was another operator deeply touched by Tom. He sent Tom a note recently that said, “Tom, I just wanted to let you know that you have had a very positive influence on me in my personal and business life. You have made me more compassionate and generous to my staff and my chauffeurs and that has meant a lot to me.” This is Tom at his best. Impacting lives in a rich, meaningful way. Tom and Wade shared their deep Christianity together through fellowship beyond the limousine business, such as the Steins'.
Carolyn Nelson, owner of Bel-Aire Limousine in Baltimore, has known Tom since he started his original limousine service in her neck of the woods. A lifelong friendship was born between the two. Nelson said, “I was mesmerized by Tom and hung on every word he said at his seminars.”
Nelson also joined one of Tom’s focus groups and said that it helped her meet every single one of her goals and kept her on track. “I can’t imagine him not being at the shows to keep us positive,” Nelson said. Nelson added that his legacy will live on into the future through his training tapes. Those tapes will continue to teach operators in how to train chauffeurs and train chauffeurs on how to serve the industry. Nelson was fortunate enough to spend time with Tom in his final days and witnessed Tom’s enjoyment of reading many emails and text messages from industry members who wanted Tom to know what a positive impact he had on their personal lives and businesses. One wish of Tom’s was that an anti-bullying foundation might be started in his name as this was a cause near and dear to him, Nelson said.