The West Side has lost one of its greatest advocates. It is with sadness and a heavy heart that I must tell of the death of Tom Hosia.

I can’t remember the first time I met Tom, but more than likely it was in the basement of St. Peter Canisius Catholic Church on North Avenue where the now defunct Northeast Austin Organization (NAO) once resided. He and Mary Volpe were two “movers and shakers” who struggled to keep Austin from going the way of what had happened to far too many other West Side neighborhoods.

Who knows what the issues were that brought me over to NAO. As a new homeowner, I knew instinctively the importance of getting involved in the community where I lived. Thinking back, because it was just around the corner from my house, there were concerns about those old concrete containers that used to be right off of Bloomingdale and Laramie. If memory serves, NAO had been given the property. They couldn’t afford to demolish those silos, and rules were later put in place that didn’t allow any non-profit to accept property it couldn’t afford to maintain.

Back in the early 1990s, NAO had a CB radio patrol going on. I can still remember the night I took my first patrol ride. I was the passenger while a veteran member of the organization drove. No sooner had we turned northbound onto Central off North Avenue, then our car was spotlighted and pulled over. Pookie blasting his music and smoking a joint while Shenaynay strolled North Avenue looking for “tricks” all got overlooked as two people who volunteered to do good were stopped and harassed for no reason.

In recent years, I would see Tom every Monday night as he was an intricate part of former senator Rickey Hendon’s Fighting Fifth organization. Tom always had a kind word and worked to help out ex-offenders and people in recovery. He was always upbeat, his visions for the West Side were endless, and his spirit everlasting. The indelible mark Tom Hosia made will always be remembered. I understand he had cancer and lost his battle against it on Nov. 22.

Our fallen warrior’s wake and funeral will be held this Friday, Dec. 2, at New Evangelican Bible Church, 4628 W. Washington Blvd. The wake will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. when the funeral service begins.

As I look at the North Austin community where I live, it still has struggles. But the neighborhood is revitalizing and no one should overlook the efforts of those who struggled for us when others were willing to overlook us. Politicians may take credit for the changes, but they must also acknowledge that many of the positive changes that have occurred in this community came about because of the work that Tom Hosia, Mary Volpe, Leola Spann and nameless others did to lay the foundation for the future.

Tom’s funeral is our last chance to honor him and whether or not you knew him, if you can come out to show respect and gratitude, then do so. The repast will be at Windy City Banquet Hall, 5090 W. Harrison from 1 till 3 p.m.

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