In a way I did know Tom Fritz

People aren’t supposed to die at 54 years old the way Tom Fritz did Sunday.
I did not know Tom Fritz. Did not know about his dedication to Avoca Borough, especially to its youth, until I read the many tributes to him early in the week. Did not know how active he was at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Dupont until I read his obituary. Did not know about the years he put in at Avoca Little League until my friend Paul Trzcinski told me Tom had been his coach.
I did not know Tom’s wife Diane either. I met her for the first and only time as she stood beside her husband’s coffin accepting condolences at Kiesinger Funeral Home Wednesday afternoon.
But in a way I did know them. Both of them. I knew them through their life’s work, their contribution to the world, their daughter Jordan.
For the past six weeks, Jordan has been a student in one of my classes at Luzerne County Community College. One might say how well can you get to know someone in just six weeks, but with Jordan Fritz it’s been easy. She’s confident and secure and open and comfortable in expressing herself, and that has to be a product of the home she grew up in.
She’s also very smart.
We had a long talk about her dad the week before he passed. She said she was driving to University of Pennsylvania Hospital to see him a couple of times a week. She described one visit when she surprised him, peeking around the corner of his room and waiting til their eyes met. He couldn’t talk, she said, but they found ways to communicate.
My heart aches for Jordan, as well as for her mom and brother Eric, whom I also met for the first and only time Wednesday. I’d be mighty surprised if he is not a lot like Jordan.
Jordan emailed me Sunday night to explain she might miss class all week. It was hardly necessary but that’s the type of person she is. I wasn’t sure what to say when I wrote back so I just told her something my friend Martin Sowa’s mother Lucy has been saying when someone dies for as long as I can remember: He’s safe now. Nothing can hurt him.
I hope it provided a little comfort.
I had looked forward to attending a fund raiser Saturday at the West Side Social Club on McAlpine Street in West Avoca to help with the family’s expenses of traveling back and forth to Philly. That doesn’t matter now, but when I learned of Tom’s death I immediately hoped they would go ahead with the event anyway and they will. They are making it a Celebration of Tom’s Life.
That’s a good thing. An important thing.
I suspect all of Avoca will be there. Avoca’s like that.
They’ll be joined by many from throughout Greater Pittston.
Hours are 2 to 6. Donation at the door is 20 bucks.

Ed Ackerman