Ron waited many lonely years to hear his beloved Helen say: “Ronny, I’ve come to take you home.” And on November 1, 2022 beloved, beautiful, beatific Helen came to take her husband, her dearest friend, her confidante and her lover home, where with their infant daughter, Mary, and many cherished family members and friends, they will experience eternal peace, joy and supreme happiness.
Romano Louis “Ron” Mazzoli was a proud son of Louisville whose enduring legacy will be his service as the twelve-term representative of the Third Congressional District of Kentucky in the United States House of Representatives. Ron was a true public servant firmly committed to the idea that the United States government’s highest calling was to serve each of its constituents equally regardless of race, class or political affiliation, and to provide every person in the United States the opportunity to advance through educational and economic opportunities.
Family, faith and education formed the constellation that guided Ron throughout his life and were constant sources of strength, comfort, and renewal on his journey from the playground of St. James parish to the halls of the United States Congress and back to Louisville.
Ron’s life dedicated to faith, family and humble service to his community and country began on November 2, 1932 with his birth to Romano and Maria Ioppolo Mazzoli in Louisville. Ron’s political philosophies were deeply influenced by his immigrant background. His father, Romano, immigrated to the United States from Maniago, a city in northeastern Italy. His mother, Mary, was a child of Sicilian immigrants. Together Romano and Mary founded the Mazzoli Tile Company, which provided tile work in many private and public buildings in Louisville and throughout the state of Kentucky. Ron was the oldest of Romano and Mary’s three children, joined by a brother, Richard, and a sister, Patricia.
Ron’s parents worked tirelessly to ensure he, Rich, and Patricia had a solid home life and access to the many educational, athletic and social opportunities afforded by Louisville in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Both parents proudly supported Ron’s political career. Throughout his Congressional tenure, a quick visit to his mother’s kitchen, “Nonni’s kitchen,” with an accompanying sandwich and cup of coffee, sustained Ron for a day filled with campaign events.
In Ron’s eyes his life did not truly begin until August 1, 1959 when he married Helen Dillon. Ron and Helen’s marriage was a life-long partnership of love and support that the English language is incapable of encapsulating. Once married, there was no longer a Ron or a Helen, only Ron and Helen. Ron and Helen’s marriage stands as a true testament to the power of love and fidelity. Their marriage was recognized by anyone who knew them as the gold standard to which all married couples should strive. Together Ron and Helen built a joyous, loving life that seamlessly combined their personal and professional lives, and successfully surmounted life’s challenges and setbacks.
The Roman Catholic faith was the cornerstone of Ron’s life. As a boy and young man, the Catholic education system cultivated his faith. He attended St. James Elementary School and St. Xavier High School. Ron’s matriculation to the University of Notre Dame in 1950 began a life-long affiliation with the University that spanned the personal and professional realms of his life.
Ron was a pillar of and beloved fixture within the Louisville Roman Catholic community. He and Helen joined Our Mother of Sorrows parish as newlyweds in 1959 and remained engaged, supportive parishioners throughout their lives. The Catholic faith infused Ron’s daily life. He always carried a rosary in his pocket; he and Helen together recited a stanza of the rosary every day, a tradition Ron maintained in solitude after Helen’s passing; and, until health considerations curtailed his driving abilities, Ron attended daily Mass.
Ron’s support of the Archdiocese of Louisville encompassed many public activities, such as co-chairing with Helen the Diocese’s 2008 Future of Hope campaign, supporting the Catholic Education Foundation, and serving as a long-time member of the Serra Club. Ron continuously contributed his time and talents to the Dioceses through many unsung yet equally impactful personal activities. Ron and Helen’s home on Ardmore Drive hosted many dinners and evenings of song for seminarians in the 1960s and 1970s. Ron drank untold cups of coffee while acting as a sounding board and mentor to priests, nuns, seminarians, educators and other members of the Louisville religious community.
Ron’s commitment to the Roman Catholic faith and mission was recognized by Pope Francis in 2013 when he bestowed the Benemerenti Medal on Ron. The Benemerenti Medal was originally established by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 for meritorious service in the Papal Army and is now an award that primarily recognizes clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church.
Education was a lifelong passion for Ron. As a student his focus and discipline put him at or near the top of his graduating classes from high school through law school. He was the valedictorian of his high school class at St. Xavier, graduated Notre Dame Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1954, and finished first in his class at the University of Louisville Law School in 1959.
After his graduation from Notre Dame, Ron’s service to his country began when he enlisted in the United States Army and proudly served as a court reporter stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. Ron treasured his military service and considered his assignment in the military justice system as the catalyst for pursuing a law degree.
Ron shared his love of learning with generations of Louisville students through teaching. Shortly after receiving his law degree, he taught business law at Bellarmine College (now University). After concluding his Congressional career, Ron and Helen returned to Louisville, where he taught at both Bellarmine University and the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
Another post-Congressional teaching post blossomed into a return to student life for Ron and Helen. In 2002 Ron served as a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. Ron and Helen so enjoyed the academic and cultural environment of Cambridge that Ron applied for and was admitted to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Ron and Helen took up residence among the faculty and students of Lowell House in the fall of 2003. After an academic year filled with new friendships, stimulating academic activities and a thorough exploration of the Boston area, Ron graduated in May 2004 with a Master of Public Administration.
In addition to his teaching activities, Ron supported the educational institutions that had formed him by serving on myriad boards, advisory committees and fund-raising campaigns to further each school’s educational mission. Ron recognized his personal success was built upon the knowledge and values instilled in him by the Louisville Catholic education system. To ensure succeeding generations had access to the same high caliber Catholic education, he established the Helen Dillon Mazzoli and Rosanne Marie Dillon Endowment Fund as part of the Catholic Education Foundation. The fund is named for Helen and her sister, Rosanne, who was a long-time, beloved teacher and principal at Holy Family Elementary School.
Ron started his professional career in 1960 when he joined the Legal Department of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad as an attorney. Ron worked for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad two years before going into private legal practice.
While practicing law Ron entered the political arena for the first time. In 1967 he won the Democratic primary for the 35th District of the Kentucky State Senate and went on to win the general election with a victory margin of 422 votes out of 25,588 cast.
Ron suffered his only political defeat in May 1968 when he finished third in the Democratic primary election for Mayor of Louisville, a race won by Frank Burke, who went on to win the general election in November 1968. Ron viewed this race as his greatest education in political campaigning and attributed his subsequent political success to the lessons he learned in this campaign.
Ron was first elected to United States House of Representatives in 1970. He was considered a longshot in a crowded Democratic primary, but, relying on a grassroots campaign, he garnered 60% of the votes cast and then defeated the Republican incumbent, William Cowger, in the 1970 general election by the narrow margin of 211 votes. Ron proudly represented the Third District for a total of twenty-four years, working with US Presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. In addition to his responsibilities as chairman of the subcommittee on immigration within the House Judiciary Committee, Ron also served on the House committees for Small Business, Intelligence, Education and the District of Columbia.
Ron recognized the opportunity the United States had afforded his parents to build a comfortable family life in Louisville. A keystone of his political career was his continual involvement in activities to ensure that immigration to the United States remained productive and beneficial to the country and to future generations of immigrants. In 1979 Ron collaborated with his close friend, Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., on President Jimmy Carter’s Select Committee on Immigration and Refugee Policy. Ron extended his immigration reform work with Father Hesburgh to his Congressional activities, culminating in the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 Ron co-sponsored with Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming.
Ron devoted himself to improving the livelihood of all residents of Kentucky’s Third Congressional District and the citizenry of Kentucky. From his initial campaign for Kentucky State Senate through his Congressional tenure Ron cultivated a political organization that remained closely connected to his district and ensured that every constituent had access to him and the services of the government.
Ron had a shrewd eye for talent and character. Many of his Louisville and Washington D.C. staff transitioned to leadership positions in local and national government, educational and non-profit organizations after working with Ron.
Ron viewed the United States’ democratic process as a model for the world. He worked tirelessly to ensure all citizens were served by and had an equal voice in the process. Ron sponsored numerous pieces of campaign reform legislation. Over the course of several election cycles, Ron embodied his campaign reform efforts by funding his campaign without donations from political action committees and with individual contributions limited to $100.
After his retirement from Congress in 1994 Ron remained engaged in educational and legal pursuits locally and nationally. From 1995 to 1998 Ron was Of Counsel to the law firm of Stites and Harbison. He joined the University of Louisville’ Brandeis School of Law in 1995 as the Ralph S. Petrelli Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law. In 1998 the Brandeis School appointed Ron its Senior Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy, a capacity in which he served through 2001. Ron and Helen began their affiliation with Harvard University in the spring of 2002 when Ron was named a Visiting Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ron and Helen were first and foremost loving parents and grandparents. Ron and Helen’s union blessed them with three beloved children. Sadly, Ron and Helen’s first child, Mary, died at birth. Son, Michael, and daughter, Andrea, completed the family in the following years. Ron was a devoted father. Despite the hectic pace and demands of his political career Ron and Helen maintained a stable and nurturing home life for Mike and Andrea, first in Louisville and later in Alexandria, Virginia. Navigating the rigorous demands of public office, Ron made time for family meals and attending Michael and Andrea’s academic and athletic events. He routinely dropped Michael off for school on his way to Capitol Hill. As both children grew, Ron and Helen carved out time for an annual family vacation – the Atlantic shore of Delaware during the Congressional years and Kentucky Lake after returning to Louisville.
Ron and Helen were the proud grandparents of four spirited granddaughters, Katie, Courtney, Elena and Isabel. Ron was a doting grandfather who ardently supported each girl’s passion in, respectively, volleyball, performing arts, musical arts and graphic arts.
Ron is survived by his son, Michael, daughter Andrea (Martin) Doyle and granddaughters, Kathleen (Ryan) Thomas, Courtney Doyle (fiancé Alex Karukas), Elena Mazzoli and Isabel Mazzoli. Ron was predeceased by Helen in 2012, sister Patricia in 2011, brother Richard in 2021 and daughter Mary in 1960.
Ron’s family wishes to recognize Dr. Mark Wheeler, Ron and Helen’s longtime physician and friend. Mark’s counsel and guidance were invaluable to Ron and his family in ensuring a comfortable and dignified conclusion to Ron’s remarkable life on earth.
Ron will encounter the angels of heaven in the next chapter of his life. But in the last chapter of his life on earth he was surrounded by a human choir of angels from Assurance Home and Convalescent Care. The Assurance team enveloped Ron in a cocoon of love and tenderness for the last eighteen months of
his life. These women’s dedication and compassion created a secure and supportive environment that allowed Ron to complete his life journey in the comfort and familiarity of the home he and Helen built to enjoy their golden years.
Visitation will be held Sunday, the 6th of November from 2-8 p.m. at Ratterman and Sons, 3800 Bardstown Road. Mass of Christian Burial will take place Monday, the 7th at 10 a.m. from Our Mother of Sorrows Church, 747 Harrison Avenue at Eastern Parkway. Ron will be buried next to his beloved Helen in Calvary Cemetery following the Mass.
Ron’s family requests that, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be given to the Helen Dillon Mazzoli and Rosanne Marie Dillon Endowment Fund at the Catholic Education Foundation or to the Helen Dillon Mazzoli Memorial scholarship fund at Mercy Academy.
Published by Ratterman & Sons Funeral Home – Bardstown on Nov. 11, 2022.