Family and friends are mourning the death of Little Rocky Run's Thomas Abbonizio, 54, who died of a heart attack, Saturday morning, while jogging.
A passerby found him lying by the side of the road in the 6400 block of Union Mill Road, around 8 a.m., and initiated CPR while rescue personnel were called. He was taken to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
His sudden death stunned and saddened those who knew him. "I was shocked — I could not believe it," said Bill Keech, one of the creators of the Westfields Corporate Center in Chantilly. "I did not expect that, at all, to happen to Tom."
"It was a shame about Tom — I've known him for years," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). "He seemed fit. It sort of brings it home; you never know."
ABBONIZIO LIVED IN Little Rocky Run for 15 years and was a single father, raising his 18-year-old son, T.J. — who just graduated from Centreville High — almost from infancy. He was a commercial real-estate broker with Cushman & Wakefield of Tysons Corner.
"He was outgoing, friendly and loved by many," said his brother Bob, 43, of Doylestown, Pa. "He was an avid golfer and gardener and a fitness enthusiast. He had heart trouble years ago, but had [gotten a clean bill of health], in the last month, from his doctor."
Frey described him as "easy-going, gentle and soft-spoken" and said he was sorry to learn about his death. "I used to run into him at Union Mill Elementary, where he volunteered," said Frey. "And he also got the Westfields Business Owners group involved there, too."
Abbonizio worked for Keech for 10 years, from 1986-96, as director of marketing for the Westfields Corporate Center. "He did an outstanding job for me," said Keech, noting that Abbonizio's previous experience as a lawyer came in handy in that position. "He was extremely professional."
Later, Abbonizio became one of the partners in the Westfields Golf Course at Balmoral. "He and I jointly developed it," said Keech. Most of all, though, he said, "Tom was an extremely close friend, was well-liked and was highly thought of in the real-estate community, as well as in Little Rocky Run. Tom was truly one of the good guys — he did a lot to help the community."
ABBONIZIO'S SON WILL enter GMU in the fall, and Keech said Tom was always active in his schools and, just a few weeks ago, had participated in Centreville High's all-night grad party. T.J. was his father's pride and joy. Said Keech: "T.J. was an accomplished guitarist. And when he won a writing contest, three or four years ago, Tom called and told me about it — he was so proud of him."
Attorney Lee Fifer knew Abbonizio since 1985, when Abbonizio was working for the Henry Long Co. "We had just started doing the rezoning application for Westfields," he said. "He was a wonderful person with a zest for life — enthusiastic about everything he did."
Fifer will give the eulogy at his long-time friend's funeral, and he's honored to have the chance to tell how he feels about him. "If you knew you were going to live only 54 years, Tom would be a model of how you ought to do it," he said. "He drank deeply of everything he did, and that made him a wonderful friend and a devoted father. Everybody he touched felt that."
Funeral services will be held Thursday morning, July 10, in Ardmore, Pa., with burial in the cemetery of the church where Abbonizio was baptized, St. Denis Roman Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be sent to: The Missionary Nuns of the Holy Rosary Order, 741 Polo Road, Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010.