We are starting something new here at Unyts, to pay tribute to our heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. It seemed fitting to call this new endeavour “Honoring our Heroes”. We know that for the families of these donors, they really are heroes, and we certainly feel the same way.
We are truly honored to share these very touching personal stories each month. If you would like to honor a hero, please read below.
This story was submitted by the family of John Tomizzi Jr.
John Tomizzi Jr.
Our Father, John Tomizzi, Jr., was a dreamer who spent most of his life in the pursuit of success. Whether it was in business, in his relationship with family and friends, or in his relationship with God, our father always wanted to be successful. He wanted to leave a legacy in life – something for his wife, children and grandchildren to look back on and be proud of. Even though he was not a perfect man – like all of us, he had flaws and stumbled along life’s journey – we believe that a man’s worth is measured not by material possessions, but by the people that he leaves behind, and how his life has impacted them. And after talking to family and friends and reflecting upon our father’s life, we believe that our father was indeed a great success. We hope that in the end he knew that, and we would like to share with you some of the reasons why we believe this.
Our father was a first class salesman and had a drive like no other. He opened and closed many businesses over the years and even though many of his ideas did not turn into material success, he had a style and charisma all of his own, a smile that could win just about anyone over, and a laugh that was contagious. He had an unbelievable ability to talk to and relate to people. He could sell any deal to just about anyone. He was a hard worker, who may not have done all of the manual labor himself, but he sure knew how to delegate.
Our father was generous, sometimes to a fault. He always donated food to homeless shelters and soup kitchens and when he worked in catering, he would host annual St. Joseph tables and invite those less fortunate. Our father never wanted to see anyone suffer and would give all that he had to help others – be it family, strangers, or even the occasional stray dog. Many times over the years, we would have friends staying with us who were going through hard times and needed help getting back on their feet. When it came to family, our father was even more willing to open his heart and home. Our grandmother and grandfather lived with us for many years, as did some of our father’s nieces and nephews.
This generosity is why the decision to donate to Unyts came so easily to our father. As far back as we can remember, our father always talked about donating as a means to help others. He hoped that another person would benefit from his donation and be able to enjoy life as much as he did. We truly believe that one of our father’s greatest gifts was his donation to Unyts and to the University at Buffalo Anatomical Gift Program. Our father valued education and hoped that he would be able to aid in the advancement of education through his gift to UB.
Family was always the most important thing to our father. Our father’s parents came to this country from Italy, and they meant everything to him. Our father was so proud of his own father, and our father’s bond with his mother was like no other. And through good times and bad, his sisters and his brother meant everything to him.
His nearly 44 year marriage to our mother was a true testament to devotion. While there were many hills and valleys, there was no denying the great love they had for one another. As our father grew sicker over the last couple of years, the one person that he constantly wanted by his side was our mother. And true to form, our mother always did what our father wanted – staying by his side and holding his hand day and night until he passed, so that he was not alone.
Our father had a great love for his children. Even though life with our father was an adventure, and not always easy, he gave up many things so that we could have the best. He sacrificed and made sure that we had the best in terms of education, and we remember Christmas after Christmas when our father always tried to give us everything that we wanted, just to see the surprise and excitement in our eyes.
Our father had an unbelievable bond with his granddaughter Gianna, and his greatest joy came from watching her over the last two and a half years of his life. There was nothing that Gianna could have asked for that he would not have given or done for her. Even when it was getting harder for him to walk, he would take her for “rides” on his walker whenever she asked. Our father knew that his time was limited, so he insisted on celebrating Gianna’s birthday on the 16th of every month, so even though Gianna was only 2 ½ when he died, she had already celebrated 30 birthdays!
In Gianna and his grandson, Benjamin, who was born just two months after he passed, our father saw his future, and he was so happy to at least be here long enough to watch Gianna grow into the beautiful little girl that she is today and have the knowledge that another grandchild was on the way. And while our father never got a chance to meet Benjamin, we believe that he did know him. When our father was dying, one of his last smiles came when my sister touched his hand to her stomach so that he could feel Benjamin move. And his last smile came looking at a picture of Gianna and listening to her talk to him on the telephone, and knowing that we would always honor his wish to keep his memory alive for them. And now, almost a year and a half after he has passed, Gianna talks daily about “Papa John” and teaches Benjamin the games they used to play together. We know that our father is looking down upon them with a smile and Gianna believes that each rainbow that she sees is a gift sent from him.
Our father’s incredibly strong faith in the Lord was unmatched. He was not ashamed to talk about his faith. You would never see our father without his cross or rosary. And, as he grew sicker, we believe that it was his faith in God that sustained and strengthened him. He had an undying belief in the power of God, and even when doctor’s told him bad news, or that he would not make it through one procedure or another, he always said that it was not up to them – that it was up to God. And, boy was he right – he defied the odds again and again right up until the end, ultimately proving that only God knows how much time we have. One of our father’s greatest gifts to his children was instilling that faith in God in us – and that faith has been a constant and sustaining force in all of our lives.
So, to really know who our father really was, why we consider him a success and why we are proud of the legacy that he left behind, simply look at our mother, who stood faithfully beside him, for better or worse, for the last 44 years. Look at his daughters, who, like our father, have a sincere love and compassion for all people and who have the ability to always see the good in others. Look at his grandchildren – Gianna and Benjamin. Look at their smiles and look into their eyes and you will see the future – and our father’s true lasting legacy.
And in the end, we do believe that our father was successful – maybe not for the material things that he possessed, but for the family he leaves behind. We hope and believe that in his last days, he realized that too because our father died with something that many wealthy men never have - he died with his family by his side, whispering to him the prayers that he so cherished, with a love for each other that has grown stronger than ever. And that is what is important in the end – family and faith. And that is what surrounded him, and that is why we are so proud of him and of the legacy that he has left behind.
*If you would like to nominate a hero of organ, eye or tissue donation, please fill out a form (click on the link below). We will be sharing these stories each month on Unyts blog and on our Donor Family Services page.