Thomas Mariana Sr.

Mr. Mariana, a Ravenna resident who was one of the most respected and well-liked sports figures in the area, died Friday, Aug. 27, 1999 at Longmeadow Care Center in Ravenna, where he had been a patient for a short period of time. He celebrated his 90th birthday in June.

A friendly, outgoing man who had lived in Ravenna most of his life, his love of sports dated to his childhood. A 1930 graduate of Ravenna High School, he had fond memories of his days as a football star from 1928 to 1930 and was a firm believer in the benefits of athletics for young people.

He organized and ran Ravenna's first bantam weight football league in 1934 and nurtured it throughout the Depression era. Jobs were elusive and he ran his own dry cleaning business for awhile until 1937, when he took a job as Ravenna's city recreation director under the WPA, a New Deal program.

As recreation director, he developed the summer playground program and started a Little League program for fifth, six, seventh and eighth graders, coaching them and refereeing their games. That led him to become certified as an official for football and basketball. He umpired for 45 years and was regarded as one of the best sports officials in the state.

In 1941, he was one of the founders of the Hot Stove Baseball League, a program which eventually grew to 19 ballfields. He built them all, clearing fields, marking them and digging holes for the light poles.

He was known as "Mr. Hot Stove" for nearly 40 years, and one of his biggest jobs was fund-raising for the league. He organized dances, rummage sales, paper drives, decal campaigns and, he once recalled, even hauled iron ore from Ravenna to Akron during World War II to get enough money to pay for equipment and uniforms for the Little League program.

"I spent a lot of time and a lot of money working with the youth of the community," he once said. "But I got my satisfaction back in return."

Throughout his involvement in athletics, he held a number of jobs, including working as a core maker at A.C. Williams Co. in Ravenna for more than 30 years until he retired. He later worked as a courier for the Portage County Board of Education.

In addition to the Hot Stove games that took him all over Portage County, he umpired high school contests throughout the area. "I was booked every day," he recalled in a recent Record-Courier interview, "I never was home. I would come in and say 'Hello' to my wife, Emma, then leave for the ball field." He umpired his last Hot Stove tournament in the early 1970s.

A devout Catholic, he was a familiar figure at daily and Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Ravenna, where he enjoyed greeting the many parishioners he knew. He was a life member of Ravenna Knights of Columbus Council No. 1417, and was especially interested in the K of C's efforts on behalf of youth and mentally retarded people. He earned state recognition for his work as youth chairman.

He was a member of the Ravenna Parks and Recreation Board for many years. The main diamond at City Park was named Tom Mariana Field in 1982.

He helped to establish the Portage County Umpires Association and the Portage County Sports Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted. He also was a member of the Ravenna High School Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Northeastern Ohio Umpires Association.

Born June 4, 1909 in Cleveland, he was the son of Vincenzo and Sarafina (Orso) Mariana.

Survivors include his son, Tom Jr. (Lois) of Ravenna; daughters, Mrs. Roy (Joyce) Morgan and Mrs. John (Nancy) Wallow, both of Ravenna; 14 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; sister, Agnes Guy of Ravenna; and half-brother, Charles of California. His wife, Emma, died in 1987. His brothers, Frank and Joe, and a grandson died previously.

Calling hours will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday at Shorts Funeral Home, Ravenna Chapel. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Immaculate Conception Church in Ravenna, with the Rev. Robert Sabatino officiating. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery in Ravenna.

Memorials may be made to the Ravenna City Schools Foundation-Stadium Fund, 507 E. Main St., Ravenna 44266.

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