HUGHESTOWN — Former state Rep. Thomas M. Tigue died in his home the morning of Monday, Feb. 1 at the age of 70.
He battled stage IV lung cancer after being diagnosed in May of last year.
Tigue’s daughter, Tracy Ashby, said she and her three siblings each took turns caring for their father after he was diagnosed.
“Everybody helped,” she said. “I was with him when he passed and he was surrounded by family.”
Ashby said he died around 9:30 a.m.
Early life, military service
Tigue was born and raised in Hughestown and graduated from St. John the Evangelist High School in 1964, followed by King’s College in 1968.
Already enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Tigue went overseas to serve in Vietnam from 1968 until 1969 as an infantry platoon commander.
His actions during combat earned him a Silver Star Award, the third-highest military decoration awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Any uniformed member may receive the medal, awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
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 and Canada. He also went out to sea for a few months training new members.
Following that service, 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.
He also got a job working as a computer program analyst for Metropolitan Life Insurance in Clarks Summit.
Serving the community
Tigue was elected to the Pittston Area School Board in 1977 but resigned in 1979 after he was elected to serve the 118th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Tigue represented parts of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Monroe counties, serving as the Democratic chair of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. In this role 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.
Tigue served in the House until 2006 and played an instrumental role in current 118th Legislative District Rep. Michael B. Carroll taking his place.
“Tommy encouraged me to run when he decided he was going to step aside and supported my candidacy,” said Carroll. “Tom and his family were supporters of mine from the beginning, and his support is unique and irreplaceable.”
Pittston City Mayor Jason Klush, who became the city’s mayor in 2010, said he learned a lot from Tigue during his early days in office.
“He was kind of a mentor to me,” said Klush. “I didn’t know much when I first got to Pittston and I learned a lot from him. He was a great role model. From his life experience and what he went through, he brought a lot to the table and he cared for the people.”
After his retirement from the state House, Tigue worked outside Philadelphia for few years, trying to attract more military businesses in that area, and then retired from work completely in 2010.
Awards and honors
Last November, the Pittston Area School Board dedicated the primary center’s flagpole in Tigue’s name. A few days later, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at a Greater Pittston YMCA ceremony to honor his work and dedication to Greater Pittston.
Klush and Carroll were both in attendance to see him receive the award.
“It was additional recognition from the community for all he had done through his lifetime,” said Carroll. “It was a special event and it was obvious from the support and turnout that people from Greater Pittston and from this region valued his leadership in this community.”
Tigue was recently named the 2015 recipient of the Joseph Saporito Sr. Lifetime of Service Award, presented by the Sunday Dispatch.
“It was well-deserved,” Klush said of Tigue’s recent honoring. “A lot of people move away, but he stuck around here and he put his time and his heart into everything. He put everything into this area and it’s very well-deserved. There’s no man better to give all these awards and acknowledgements to.”
Tigue is survived by his four children — Thomas Tigue Jr., Hughestown; Tracy Ashby, Jenkins Township; Kristin Lazevnick, Yatesville; and Colleen DeFrank, Harrisburg; and nine grandchildren — Eastin, Madison, Taryn and Ashton Ashby; Trevor and Kendall Tigue; Rowan Lazevnick, and Brynn and Paige DeFrank.
He is preceded in death by his wife of 46 years Dianne, who passed away at the age of 68 on Aug. 24, 2015, Tigue’s birthday and one month before the couple’s 47th wedding anniversary.
While her father maintained a high status as a political man and a war veteran, Ashby said there are too many words to describe her father as a person.
“He was everything and he was one of a kind,” she said. “He was intelligent, kind, and he was loving and caring and helpful and unselfish. It’s hard to sum him up because he was the best.”
Funeral arrangements will be handled by Peter J. Adonizio Funeral Home in Pittston.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher.