An elegant, heartfelt farewell to Tom Kontizas at Good Shepherd

Amy Ferris: 'He made everyone feel like they swallowed the sun'

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  • Two local ladder trucks  (Matamoras and Dingman) flank the American flag high above the entrance to Good Shepherd (Photo by Allison Taylor)

  • The Reverend Van Bankston led the service (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

  • Retired firefighter’s car (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

“We have come together to grieve for Tom, but we have to let go of this aching void as we think of Tommy, this incredibly brave man who was in many ways larger than life."
The Reverend Van Bankston

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— On Monday, June 25, the small, but magnificent Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Milford was filled to the brim and then some for the many friends, firefighters, local police, and family of Tom Kontizas — probably one of the most adored and loved men in Pike County.

As people entered the church, two fire trucks (Engine 32 from Matamoras and Engine 26 from Dingman Township) had their ladders high up flanking an American flag. A fire car from Milford Borough (Station 33) and an honor guard of law enforcement from Milford Borough and Eastern Pike Regional were also there in a show of respect for Tom.

It was a daunting experience to enter the church surrounded by these fine volunteer emergency responders. In addition, there was a fire car of retired firefighters which had the words,”We will never forget” emblazoned on its side. Dave Ruby, volunteer firefighter in Milford borough and a friend of Tom and his wife, Karen, organized this brigade, and said, “It was easy. Everyone wanted to participate to honor Tom.”

The Reverend Van Bankston led the service, which was a celebration of Tom’s life.

“We have come together to grieve for Tom, but we have to let go of this aching void as we think of Tommy, this incredibly brave man who was in many ways larger than life," he said.

Several other speakers read passages from the bible, and two people in particular recounted funny stories about Tommy. Bobby Greco, Karen’s first cousin, wore Tommy’s signature straw hat as he spoke.

“Tommy, being Greek, always wanted to be Italian like our family, and he was very happy when he found out that 'Greco' means 'Greek' in Italian," he said.

Russ Capone, a neighbor of Tom and Karen’s in Queens, knew Tom for 42 years. He commented on how Tom would always help anyone. He went to borrow a screwdriver when he first moved in — and there was Tom, always at the ready to help. And forever after, whenever he used a screwdriver, he thought about Tom’s generosity.

Steve Harvey, a New York City Retired firefighter, recited the fireman’s prayer.

Aside from these speakers, many of the guests marveled at Tommy’s energy, warmth, and ability to spread happiness wherever he went.

Amy Ferris said, “He made everyone feel like they swallowed the sun.”

There were smiles, there was sadness, there were wonderful memories. Several people mentioned it felt as though Tom was actually in the room, organizing everyone and telling everyone to take care of his wonderful soulmate, Karen. There was a ubiquitous sense of love, and people wanted to just hug and look after Karen — just as Tommy had wished.

Related story"Beloved Pike County man dies after battle with 9/11-linked leukemia":

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