PITTSTON — Thomas Tigue was remembered for being humble and a straight shooter at a funeral service Saturday morning.
Tigue, a former state representative and Hughestown resident, died in his home on Monday morning after a battle with stage IV lung cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in May.
A Vietnam veteran, Tigue was 70. He earned the Silver Star while serving in Vietnam and went on to serve an additional 27 years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
“Tom did not like to be singled out or the center of attention,” Rev. Thomas Maloney said during his homily.
In the fall, the Pittston Area School Board dedicated the primary center’s flagpole in Tigue’s name.
“They had to figure out how to get Tom there to accept that honor,” Maloney said, which drew some laughter from the crowd.
The pews inside the Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish were packed with mourners for the service. A few rows of chairs were lined up in the back, but those that arrived late had to stand.
At the beginning and end of the service, members of the U.S. Marine Corps draped a flag over Tigue’s casket.
Among those in attendance were District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz, state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
Tigue’s son, Thomas Tigue Jr., also spoke of his father’s humble nature during the eulogy. He explained that when he and his sisters were asked to give one word to describe their father, one of the first that came to mind was “humble.”
That made Tigue Jr. think about when he graduated from U.S. Marine Corps recruit training on Parris Island. He remembered that others that graduated with him had family members that were also Marines, who were in full uniform during the ceremony.
Tigue Jr., however, said his father chose not to come in his uniform. He said that his father, being a lieutenant colonel at the time, would have been saluted by the new Marines as well as “90 percent” of the other active duty Marines in attendance.
“When my mother asked my father why he didn’t wear his uniform … he replied ‘today’s his day,’” Tigue Jr. said.
The Silver Star
Tigue Jr., however, said he wanted to make Saturday his father’s day and told those in attendance how his father earned a Silver Star Award, the third-highest military decoration awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Tigue Jr. read the citation of the award, and said that his father was 23 at the time, his mother 22 back in the United States pregnant.
Tigue was serving as a platoon commander on Feb. 16, 1969. The company was assaulting enemy positions when Tigue’s platoon came under “intense automatic weapons fire” and was temporarily pinned town.
Tigue advanced across the area under fire and made his way to the point of heaviest contact. He then planted a claymore mine where the enemies would probably advance and relocated his platoon.
The Vietnamese then moved into close proximity of the mine, and Tigue detonated it. Tigue then rallied his troops to assault the remaining enemy, “shouting words of encouragement” as he gave orders.
“His resolute determination and bold fighting spirit inspired all who observed him, and contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission,” Tigue Jr. read.
Aside from his military career, Tigue Jr. described his father as a loving family man with the love of his life, Dianne, by his side.
“Together they fought as partners through everything,” Tigue Jr. said. “From wars to political campaigns to raising a family.”
Dianne passed away at the age of 68 on Aug. 28, just a few months after Tigue’s cancer diagnosis.
“Fighting his last battle without the love of his life by his side was uncharted territory for him,” Tigue Jr. said.
Acknowledging the crowd, Tigue Jr. said his father would have been touched by those in attendance, but also once again pointed out his father’s preference to avoid attention.
“He would then probably ask, ‘Don’t you people have anything better to do with your weekend?’” Tigue Jr. said, inciting laughter from the crowd. “That’s just the kind of man he was.”
A straight shooter
Others that knew Tigue also noted that he was a straight shooter.
David Berlew, 79, of Avoca, said he met Tigue when he got out of the service shortly after 1959. Berlew was also a U.S. Marine.
“I knew him all my life,” Berlew said as he became visibly emotional. “He was just a great man, and he was a hell of a dad.”
Annette Palutis, former region and state president for Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), also attended the funeral services. She said she came to know Tigue during his tenure as a state representative .
“Every educational decision is a political decision, so I learned early on to be part of that process, and I had worked with my legislators,” she said. “Rep. Tigue and I worked together for many years.”
During that tenure, she recalled numerous debates with Tigue concerning education and said he often liked to play the devil’s advocate.
Like Berlew, Palutis also believes that Tigue would be remembered as a straight shooter.
“As somebody who cared about people, told you the truth and did what he said he was going to do,” Palutis said.
Tigue was laid to rest at the St. Mary’s Assumption Cemetery in Hughestown, next to his wife.
Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews