Constituents Deceased list

Thomas “Tom” Vitanza J.D. ’73 was the proud son of Sicilian immigrants and born in Jamestown, New York. From the age of 7 he was raised in Santa Clara by his parents, Carl and Anna (Guiffrida) Vitanza, in a tiny apartment steps from SCU, where he would eventually attend law school, marry his loving wife of 48 years, Lydia (Sanchez) Vitanza, at Mission Santa Clara, and practice law and raise his family. He believed in education, formal and informal, and made sure he and his family had both. He joined the Air Force immediately following graduation from Santa Clara High School in the hopes of paying for college through the GI Bill, which he eventually did years later at San Jose State University, where he met his wife, Lydia. While she was enamored after their first date to My Fair Lady, it would be several years and much travel before they would meet again and marry. Early on, the Air Force recognized his talents in science, and he received technical training that led to postings around the world (to only “cold” places, to his dismay), and formed the basis of his first career with RCA Records (to London and beyond) and eventually back to Santa Clara where he designed, created, and programmed the county Criminal Justice Information Database (CJID), which is still in use today and was one of his proudest career accomplishments. He was both ahead of his time when this valley had more produce than technology, and a simple traditional man in the most gracious definition of the word. In his 20s, while living abroad, his younger sister, Mary Ann Bruegmann, faced tragedy, losing her firefighter husband and left alone to raise five young children. He dropped everything and moved in to help pick up the pieces, and forever becoming “Uncle Tommy” in a situation that would have overwhelmed a lesser man. He loved his time with them. To the end of his life, helping his sister and his nieces and nephews, Mark, Janine, Don, Chris, and Joe (Carrera), and later Mary Margaret, was his greatest joy. He had only two children with Lydia, Elisa and Carlo, but the family of his heart was large and ever expanding. Many thought that Tom was born a lawyer and that the law made him who he was, but it was he who brought his robust sense of justice and equality and endless curiosity and analytical mind to the law. As a young man, when he was helping his struggling sister, he fought to establish a compensation fund, the first of its kind in this county, for fallen firefighters’ families. The legal career he would start in his mid-30s was simply an extension of his core values, his willingness to help no matter what, and the chance to use better tools to help. You always knew where you stood with Tom because he told you. And the art of the impassioned kitchen table discussions, which to some might have appeared like arguments, to the Vitanza household was just talking, and Tom was always happiest holding court at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee or 12, a plate of his mother’s biscotti, a game of Scrabble or cribbage, a penny a point, and a lively philosophical, political, or moral question to permeate the air between plays. Tom died at home on Nov. 29, 2018, at the age of 82. He was a generous, intellectually curious, progressive thinker, strong in his convictions and character, fiercely loyal, a man of his word, and above all else a husband, father, brother, uncle, and son who loved his family and friends and would do anything to help them. He was a true renaissance man pursing science, philosophy, ethics, politics, and law with equal vigor.

30 Jan 2019