Knoblauch, Mazzi are Whitehall Hall of Fame inductees

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 Messenger photo by Dianne Garrett

City Councilman Leo Knoblauch will be inducted into the Whitehall Yearling High School Hall of Fame Feb. 2.  He is a strong proponent of volunteerism, and wants to see more residents get involved with the community.

 
Chief Master Sergeant Mike Mazzi speaks to 750 new airmen during Warrior Week at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He has retired after 30 years in the military, a career that took him around the world.

Whitehall Yearling High School will be inducting two new Hall of Fame honorees Feb. 2.  The event will be during half-time at around 7:15 at the basketball game.  

This year’s inductees, Leo Knoblauch and Michael Mazzi, both graduated in 1977, but in a class of about 350 classmates, barely knew one another.

Leo Knoblauch is in his third year as Ward 3 City Councilman. After retiring from the Air Force in 1994, he chose to return to his hometown to help his parents.   For the past 10 years he has been employed at Nationwide Insurance in information management.

Being a proponent of volunteerism, he gives his time and talents to several organizations.  He is the son of Sylvia and the late Paul "Knobby" Knoblauch.

Chief Master Sergeant (Retired) Mike Mazzi is the son of Carol and the late Anthony Mazzi.  He returned from the Air Force last year after 30 years of service.  

After literally touring the world, Mazzi, and his wife, Becky, have settled in Waynesville, and will soon be moving to a 10-acre farm.  

He and Becky met in the Air Force, and have been married 25 years.  They have one son, Steven, who is attending Valdosta State University in Georgia and  working at Moody Air Force Base.

Avid volunteer

Knoblauch was active in high school  theatre, a member of the audio visual crew, and one of the first to start the school’s television crew.  In the theatre he worked on the technical side, but did appear in the production of "Up The Down Staircase." 

He was a member of the Whitehall Saggitarians, an archery program offered by the parks department.  Knoblauch was a three-time state champion, twice as a youth and once as an adult.  

During spring break in 1975, he and scout friend, Mike Murphy, played 122 hours of chess to get their names into the Guinness Book of World Records.   

"We weren’t playing competitively, we just wanted to break a record," Knoblauch explained.  

They did it, and so did another pair of players, so all four made it for the same amount of time.  

They set up at the fire station where Leo’s dad was a firefighter, only taking restroom breaks.  He said that some times their parents brought them food, and other times, parents paid the fire department to include them when they cooked their own meals.  

"I think I passed out and kept playing," Knoblauch said.  

His favorite teachers included Norma Gonwor.

"She taught us to look outside of conformity, or what people today refer to as outside the box," Knoblauch recalled of the elementary school teacher.  "She taught us that one way is not always the only way."

In the community he recalled Ron and Idora Keller, who owned Stewart’s Root Beer Stand, as being other positive influences.  

"They were probably the first equal opportunity employers," chuckled Knoblauch.  "If you wanted to work, they would find something for a kid to do."  

He recalled picking up trash in the parking lot, and for a block each way past the stand.  They would have coupons for free food printed on little footballs, and the high school cheerleaders would toss them to the crowd at games.  

Knoblauch is an avid volunteer, and said that he wishes more people would get out there and get involved.  

"It makes a community stronger, and it’s a great feeling to know you are helping and making a difference for others," he said.  

He is an active member of several volunteer organizations.  In 2004 he was named Citizen of the Year, served as the past chair of the Civil Service Commission, is the chair and founder of Whitehall Education Foundation, as well as a founding member of the Whitehall Historical Society.

Every Christmas, his family celebrates early so that he and his mom can serve Christmas dinner, entertain, or work in whatever area they are needed at Bethlehem on Broad.  

Sylvia Knoblauch is very proud of her son.  "He was a good kid growing up, and a quiet kid.  I am so glad that he went back to college when he returned from the service to get his degrees."  

Always learning

Mazzi retired last year, and took a position at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton as a senior logistics manager where he works on many programs focusing on  strategic planning, combat capability and sustaining operations by effectively planning to use Air Force resources.

His family came to Whitehall in 1968 from North Dakota after his father retired from 21 years in the military.  

He shared that growing up in Whitehall was fun.  He and his friends, much to his mom’s chagrin, would ride their bikes downtown to see movies at the Palace Theater, or hang out at the OSU campus.  

A friend’s dad worked at the Krispy Kreme, so they all got free doughnuts.  

The owner of the Town & Country theater always let him and his friends see movies for free, and they used to lug home movie posters from the Palace.  

Mrs. Mazzi remembered Mike and his brother, Steve, studying kung fu at a studio behind Krispy Kreme.  She said her son was always a good kid, a good son, and is now a good adult, of whom she is very proud.

 

Mazzi’s appreciation for the value of education grew after high school.

"I never really understood the need for advanced education until I left high school," Mazzi said. "It’s funny, but I used to argue with people about that…I think many of us have been there.  Now I have a master’s degree and have completed some Ph.D. work."  

He joked, "I can’t imagine what some of my friends and teachers would think about that…like no way!"  

He credited his parents for the love and support.  "Mom has always been there for me."  

She worked at Woolco on Broad Street, and arranged for a lot of students to work there.

 

Mazzi entered the Air Force in September after graduation, completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.  He has an extensive background in the supply career field, and served in numerous operational and supply  units from squadron to wing level.  

He received a host of awards and accommodations, including The Meritorious Service Medal.

 

Mazzi explained that his whole career was filled with profound moments.   "It was a lifetime of moments few people have the opportunity to achieve.  Despite the unique differences between the major military services, they combine to form the most formidable military power in the world.  I was impacted by the many places and events."

He has lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Italy, Germany, and has visited a multitude of other countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, England, Holland, Spain, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, Russia and East Germany.  

"I was actually in East Germany when the (Berlin) wall came down," he shared.  "It was awesome to see it live, and you would not believe the happiness felt by the people.  It marked the near end of the Cold War, and anyone who had ever served in the military to that point, could claim victory."

 

In 1988 after the Olympics, the Air Force Sports Office sent out a message to all the bases looking for athletes to try out for the bobsled team.  

During his years at WYHS he ran track and cross country.  While in the military he had participated in track and field and power lifting events hosted around the country.  

In the Air Force he joined the bobsled team and was picked up on the national team for the 1989 season.  During the next four years he competed in three world championships, and his team was selected National Champs in 1990, and finished second in the 1992 Olympic trials.

Mazzi said that he doesn’t feel that today’s WYHS students are much different than in 1977, saying most young adults still want to be successful.  He said there are good people out there, but sometimes you just have to look for them to find them.  

"For 30 years I worked with the new graduating classes from various high schools.  Year after year new people have come into my Air Force and made a difference," Mazzi said.  "It’s all whether or not you can unlock the person inside…whether you care!  Those future leaders are in WYHS hallways right now, waiting for one person or event to allow them to be the person we need in society."

 

 

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