HUGHESTOWN — Tom Tigue’s resume includes titles such as war veteran, school board member, state representative, father and grandfather.
Because of his hard work and dedication to the Greater Pittston area, Tigue has been named the 2015 recipient of the Joseph Saporito Sr. Lifetime of Service Award, presented by the Sunday Dispatch.
The first Lifetime of Service Award was presented posthumously to Saporito in 2000 and accepted by his widow, Yolanda “Dolly” Saporito, who has since passed away, and sons, Carlo and Atty. Joseph Jr. The award is not only presented in Saporito’s memory, but also named for him.
To be nominated for the prestigious award, a person must have dedicated a lifetime of service to making a difference in the Greater Pittston area. Nominations are accepted from the community with the final decision resting with members of the Dispatch editorial staff.
The always-humble Tigue, 70, said he is grateful for the award, but asked, “Are you sure there’s nobody more deserving you can give it to?”
Born and raised in Hughestown, Tigue graduated from St. John the Evangelist High School in Pittston in 1964 and then from King’s College in 1967 with a degree in government.
Just before he graduated from King’s, Tigue enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
“What happened was I finished King’s early and graduated in December of 1967,” he said. “I joined the Marine Corps Reserve in September of 1967, finished King’s, went to my training and then came back for my graduation ceremony in the spring of 1968.”
Later that year, Tigue left to serve in Vietnam until 1969 as an Infantry Platoon Commander.
It was because of his actions during combat that he was given a Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces.
Any uniformed member may receive the medal, awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
“You get into circumstances beyond your control and you do the best you can do to get out of it,” Tigue said. “We were pinned down and some activities went on and they put me up for a Silver Star. We were in a bad area in Vietnam and I had to make decisions and do some things to save my troops and get out of there.”
After returning home from Vietnam, Tigue continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve for 27 years and was stationed in places such as North Carolina, Philadelphia, California, Canada. He even went out to sea for a few months training new members.
“I didn’t like being on a ship,” he said. “It was too confining.”
After returning home, Tigue worked as a counselor at Youth Forestry Camp 2 in Hickory Run State Park in White Haven and went back to King’s College to take business classes.
Tigue also got a job working as a computer program analyst for Metropolitan Life Insurance in Clarks Summit.
Serving school and state
Tigue served on the Pittston Area School Board from 1977-1979, taking an interest in being on the board when his children were getting ready to attend the school district.
“I thought we had a good board at the time,” he said. “Martin Mattei was the superintendent at the time and I tell people that he and I, we didn’t always agree, (but) he was the best person in the state for finding funding for the school. I thought he did a great job and that’s the most important thing in our community, the school.”
After he resigned from the school board, Tigue ran and was elected to serve the 118th legislative district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1980 and served Luzerne, Lackawanna and Monroe counties.
“It was a hotly contested race,” he said. “It was the most satisfying and most difficult election.”
During his tenure, Tigue served as the Democratic chair of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee where he helped establish the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, which provides assistance to eligible Pennsylvania service members and their family members financially impacted by military service.
He served in the House for 26 years before retiring in 2006.
“The most satisfying thing about being a state representative is you can help people,” Tigue said of his experience. “That’s the most gratifying thing about being a state representative and people have been very kind to me over the years. I learned more from that experience than all of my other experiences combined.”
After his retirement from state congress, Tigue worked outside Philadelphia for few years, trying to get more military businesses in that area.
He retired completely in 2010.
Family and cancer
Tigue married his wife, Dianne, in 1968. She passed away on Aug. 24, 2015, at the age of 68, one month before the couple’s 47th anniversary. Together, they have four children — Thomas Tigue Jr., Hughestown; Tracy Ashby, Jenkins Township; Kristin Lazevnick, Yatesville; and Colleen DeFrank, Harrisburg.
Tigue also has nine grandchildren — Eastin, Madison, Taryn and Ashton Ashby; Trevor and Kendall Tigue; Rowan Lazevnick; and Brynn and Paige DeFrank.
Despite all of her father’s political work, Tracy said he always made time to be a dad.
“He was more concerned about our grades and how we handled things,” she said. “He was always supportive and encouraged us to do things. We went on vacations every year, planned or spontaneous, and he was always a big sports fan. There are so many great memories. We did so much together as a family, and that’s what we do with our kids.”
Last May, Tigue was diagnosed with lung cancer and is undergoing treatments, which often make him weak.
His children take turns spending time with him and taking care of him.
“I don’t know what I would do without them,” Tigue said.
Recent awards, honors
Last November, Tigue received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Greater Pittston YMCA ceremony to honor his work and dedication to the Greater Pittston area.
Bill Burke, president of the YMCA Board of Directors, said choosing Tigue for the award was an easy decision.
A few days prior, the Pittston Area School Board dedicated the primary center’s flagpole in Tigue’s name.
School board member John Adonizio, a friend of Tigue’s, said he contacted the board of education about naming the flagpole.
“Tommy would rather have seen it named after someone else and if you know Tom, that’s how he is, but it was our decision to name it after him,” said Adonizio. “He was always active in the community and coached baseball teams and always had an interest in kids. With his service record and commitment to the community, serving the school board and House of Representatives, I thought it’d be a great gesture to have it named after him. He was definitely an inspiration for that flagpole and we want to do something for all our veterans and thought it’d be fitting.”
Now with the addition of the Joseph Saporito Sr. Lifetime of Service Award, Tigue is more grateful than ever, but would still argue there are those more deserving.
Tracy, however, disagrees.
“It’s well-deserved,” she said.