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Vai's View: Vai's View: Farewell to Tom Mazza, a friend who told it like it was

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 2:44 p.m. MDT

As for my performance, he told me, "You're treating sports like it's Beirut. It's not. No one died. It's not life or death. That's what the first 20 minutes of the newscast is about. Sports is our respite from our hectic day or week. Treat it as such. Smile. Laugh when an athlete or coach says or does something stupid 'cause that's what we're doing at home."

His opinions on dress and performance weren't reserved for me alone but others on our news team.

My female news anchor had a black jacket with gold buttons in front and epaulettes on the shoulders that she occasionally wore. When she did, Maz would call my direct line and without even a hello, would say, "Tell Renee the men and I are ready to storm the castle at 0500. We await her command," and hung up. When I walked into the studio for my segment five minutes later, I had to bite my lip as I looked at her military-like jacket.

Maz was fascinated that I am a third generation Latter-day Saint as a Tongan. I invited him to special occasions like baptisms, my sons' farewells and homecomings. He never failed to entertain and regale my family and friends with hilarious stories of his upbringing and attending Catholic school. He relished that as a Mormon, I was sending my kids to Catholic school. He loved to tease me about that with the quip, "Vai's kids go to LDS seminary classes before school and then to the Jesuits to straighten them out," was the version when we'd be in a predominantly Catholic audience, and among an LDS group he'd say, "Vai's kids go to early morning seminary, then go off to Catholic school to straighten out the Jesuits," and we'd laugh uproariously.

When a BYUtv crew came to film a segment with my family last summer for its pilot program "BYU Legends," they asked to interview some of my friends.

Not everyone they interviewed made the segment, but Maz did because he's a walking, talking sound bite.

I invited Maz when we had special guests in our home because he always understood the propriety of situations. LaVell and Patti Edwards stayed with us one weekend while they served a New York City mission and Maz came for dinner. He asked LaVell, "Coach, do you still need a ticket to attend games or do you just point at the name in front of the stadium?" LaVell laughed so hard he doubled over.

Through our friendship, he grew to appreciate missionaries as they were often in our home whenever he visited and he knew our commitment as LDS to

serve. He instructed all his limo drivers they were to offer rides to any "white shirts" they encountered, especially in Philly's most dangerous neighborhoods. More than once, he'd call me from one of his cars, "Hey, I got Elders Jones and Jackson here and I'm dropping them off at their apartment. Their mothers would be a wreck if they saw the neighborhood where they were walking."

Once, I was in Mesa, Ariz., speaking at a fireside when he called as I was arriving at the chapel to tell me he was in Scottsdale on business. I invited him to the fireside and he arrived 30 minutes later with a driver in tow. As he walked in the chapel, I was already at the pulpit, so I invited him to come forward and stand next to me. I introduced him to the audience. Suddenly, he leaned into the mic and took over for about 10 minutes of the funniest stories of his experiences picking up "white shirts" in his limos all over Philadelphia. He closed by saying, "Many of you here have sons and daughters in various parts of the world, perhaps I may have picked up your child in Philly. I have the utmost respect for you and your children." He sat down and someone instinctively clapped, then a few more and then the entire chapel followed suit. In this setting, it somehow seemed appropriate.

Though he loved our "white shirts," he was never interested in being taught the discussions so I respected his wish, though I still occasionally asked.

About six or seven years ago, Maz sold his limo company and became a consultant. Overnight, he became a guru in the limo profession, hired by big and small family-owned businesses all over the world to consult and for advice. He filmed a series of DVDs that were incredibly lucrative. He traveled extensively first-class, stayed in five-star hotels and, of course, was driven in limousines.

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