Our nation has become obsessed with celebrity couples.
Some people can’t get enough news about Tom and Katie, Brad and Angelina, Justin and Jessica, the Kardashian girls and their men-of-the-month.
But here in the Archdiocese of Louisville we have a far better example of what it means to be a married couple, successful and loving. We have a far more accurate representation of what the Sacrament of Marriage is supposed to represent.
We have Romano and Helen Mazzoli.
For more than half a century — 52 years, to be exact — Helen and Ron Mazzoli provided a daily witness of how a couple joined in love, in faith — in a true partnership for life — are supposed to live. Before Helen Mazzoli’s passing on June 18, the Mazzoli’s were part of the social, political and cultural fabric of our community — rarely was one seen without the presence of the other. And throughout Ron Mazzoli’s 24-year history as Louisville’s Third District representative to the U.S. Congress, those who knew and worked with the couple always noted that his decision-making process included conversation and consultation with her.
When Ron Mazzoli had the chance to return to college in 2003 to pursue a master’s degree from the Harvard College Kennedy School of Government, he was quick to note that the opportunity “wouldn’t have happened except for Helen and her ability to be adaptable.”
“We always made every major decision in our lives together, both the personal and political,” the former congressman said in a 2003 interview.
And it was ever thus.
Years ago after a particularly difficult and hard-fought campaign, the Mazzoli’s were on election night celebrating the narrow win — most likely at the Galt House Hotel — when a then-young reporter asked the congressman how he’d managed to close the deal with voters.
“We turned Helen loose,” her husband said. He was grinning at the time, but it was a dead-serious comment.
“Ron was an excellent campaigner,” said Charles Mattingly, who was at Ron Mazzoli’s side as the congressman’s chief of staff — and one of his closest friends. “But Helen was every bit as good and probably the better campaigner of the two.”
The couple shared personality traits, their good friend said. “She related so well to people, just as Ron does,” Mattingly explained. “She was engaging, gracious and caring — people sensed the same genuineness about her that they did and do with Ron. I think their closeness as a couple made them effective together.”
Mattingly should know. He began working with the Mazzoli’s during Ron’s initial run for Congress in 1970 when Mattingly was a senior at Bellarmine College.
Mazzoli won that first race by 211 votes, and the life-long Mazzoli-Mattingly friendship was forged. “Working with him, with them, was the most fortunate occurrence of my life, right there with meeting my wife,” Mattingly said last week, with more than a hint of emotion.
Ron and Helen’s closeness never involved a manufactured, for-the-cameras sincerity. Everyone who witnessed it knew it was the real McCoy.
The Lord gave Ron and Helen Mazzoli a great gift — the love of one another. They knew it and shared that knowledge with the rest of the world.
All of us who are lucky enough to experience the Sacrament of Marriage know what a blessing we’ve been given. And those of us who’ve yet to have that experience — those still looking for the kind of love that takes your breath away — should be mindful of Ron and Helen and the example they set.
They were so close, in fact, that Ron Mazzoli said during his wife’s wake that some of their interpersonal communication didn’t necessarily involve talking.
“We were each others’ best friends,” he said. “What I’ll miss most are those moments when we’d come home at night and just be with each other on the couch, just in each other’s presence. We didn’t necessarily have to say anything; we took comfort in knowing the other one was right there with us.”
At the wake there was a memorable photo of the Mazzolis taken on their wedding day. They were gazing out the rear-window of a Chevrolet sedan as they prepared to drive away to their honeymoon, to the rest of their lives. Their love for each other was obvious in that image; it grew even more obvious to those who knew them later in life.
What they’ve given their community is worth remembering and celebrating.
We should all be so lucky. We should all try so hard. We should all love and be loved so much.