The Arizona Limousine Association is working harder to promote local limousine and ground transportation companies.
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.
Tom did not fight the disciplinary action at the college. He received a suspended sentence from the judge. Klieger, who was at the sentencing hearing, said that Tommy looked at the judge and said that it hadn’t been easy. If not for the love of his family, and Klieger, he could not have gotten through the proceedings. Tom was eternally grateful to them. Tom said that day that this was not the end of his life and that some day he may still even get to practice law. Tom was pardoned in 1993. While Tom suffered from the professional setback, he went on to find success. In trying to help a friend, he paid a higher price. For Tom had his success and failure on the public stage, Klieger said. Tom loved the audience and the microphone and the stage. He went to great lengths for friends.
“I will carry my friend gently in my heart,” he ended.
His story showed the extent Tom would go for a friend and the dignity he had in the face of great adversity. The telling of the tale showed that Tom was not taking secrets to his grave but rather wanted it shown that everyone knew all of the many facets that were part of Tom Mazza.
Those facets were further displayed when Tom’s sister Marion explained how he was a funny, exasperating, uninhibited, dynamic individual who savored life. She said that he was complicated and that he made choices where there were heavy lessons. “Tom always took responsibility for his choices,” Marion said. Marion told of how Tom suffered greatly in his final weeks and how he did not give himself a pass. During his last months, knowing that the end was coming, Tom was fortunate to be able to communicate with his friends and family, always letting them know how important they are to him and encouraging them to talk about their lives. He connected with humanity innately and unquestioningly. She said at his core was plenty of love. She recalled how Tom had a recurring dream of being on a beach looking at the ocean with a cold glass of water embraced by his brother and parents and they were all talking loudly. Marion said, “I hear you.”
Tom’s brother, Mark, said he felt like the act after the Beatles. He recounted how many people felt Tom was a like a brother to them. He said, “Tommy was my brother. He touched people.”
Mark relayed how, while Tom was growing up, he got straight As but would never shut up. His parents were called into schools by the nuns because he failed conduct. They told his parents that they would pray for him. Mark laughed about how many people in the audience had paid money to hear Tom talk but that he was serenaded by that soundtrack for his entire life. Most pointedly, Mark said, “When he loved you, you didn’t know anything else.”
Tom Mazza was a complex individual who gave different pieces of himself to those around him. In the end, he was taken by a devastating illness at only 53 years young. Friend Jason Sharenow recalled at the luncheon following the Mass how Tom had asked him, “Why me?”
Jason tearfully referred to a baseball analogy of how a pitcher who threw the perfect game is taken out in the sixth inning. He said you did your job but it really wasn’t fair that you didn’t get to finish what you started.
Tom’s legacy will live on in his writings, tapes and most importantly in the memories and retold Mazza wisdom from the family, friends and entire industry full of colleagues who loved him.
LCT TOM MAZZA OBITUARY AND BIOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND
— Reported by Linda Jagiela, LCT contributing writer
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