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HUNTINGTON VALLEY, Penn. — If the number of mourners at a funeral account for the stars guiding the path to heaven, the path for Tom Mazza will be emblazoned with bright light.
The outpouring was a testament to the person Tom Mazza was and what he meant to so many people. More than 300 mourners traveled from across the globe to be part of the tribute on Thursday, Aug. 23 to a man who touched so many. Mazza died of medical complications related to ALS on Aug. 11.
Arriving at the church, visitors were met with a memorial to Tom’s brother, Paul, who predeceased Tom, at the entrance of St. Albert’s Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Valley, Penn. — a suburb of Philadelphia. Tom’s family attends the church regularly.
The line extended out the door for those who wished to visit and give their condolences to family and friends in attendance. A life size photo of Tom stood by the altar giving the feeling that he was present during the service. A Catholic Mass was given by Father James Oliver who was with Tom during the last months of his life. Father Oliver explained that Tom would write on a yellow pad when he wanted to communicate. He said that he had given him ideas for his sermons. Tom told the reverend that when a dying person faces death, the one thing he dreams of is more time with his family. Tom’s family spent the last months by his side while he suffered and fought a battle with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The traditional service had Tom’s friend, Jessy Kyle, sing a moving rendition of Amazing Grace and Ave Maria which left tears in the eyes of many in the room.
A new side of Tom was revealed to many when Tom’s long time friend Louis Klieger led the words of remembrance. He told a story of Tom’s life that many did not know:
Klieger had met Tom in 1980 at the Oklahoma City School of Law, when they were both younger, thinner and had more hair. Tom nicknamed Klieger “Sweet Lou” after baseball’s Lou Pinella, a New York Yankee. Those who knew Tom knew his affinity for professional sports, especially Philadelphia sports. Klieger was from New York. The two attended sporting events together, and if the Philadelphia team did not do well, Tom blamed it on the fact that he was with a Yankee. In Tom’s last email to Klieger, he said, “You just make me laugh.” In July when Tom was gravely ill, he asked Klieger to finish his story.
Klieger’s story, though, took a different turn going back to Oklahoma City in 1983 when Tom was a law student. It’s a story that profoundly shaped Tom and haunted him his entire life, as told by Klieger:
Tom wanted to leave his record with a complete box score. Tom was a year behind Klieger in law school while Klieger already was in the bar. As everyone knew, Tom was a talker, so everything said was fair game. Tom was a good friend with his barber in Oklahoma City. As with most barbers, they knew everyone’s business. At the time, Tom was interning at the District Attorney’s office in Oklahoma City. His barber was a defendant in a pending criminal case. Tommy gave a copy of a police report that he had obtained from the D.A.’s office to his barber friend. Perhaps he thought this was the kind of document that would eventually be turned over during discovery. Tom simply wanted to help a friend. When the act became known, Tommy was met with loudspeakers and guns pointed at him and he was arrested and charged with violating the public trust. Mourners at the funeral service took a deep breath imaging a 24-year-old young man just beginning his life as a budding attorney having everything taken away in a blink.