Thomas Zepp was always the kind of person who enjoyed helping people -- whether it was a grieving friend whose spirits needed uplifting or a family member who needed assistance around the home.
Perhaps the longtime Duquesne resident's love for coming to the aid of others motivated his decision to serve in the Army and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard for 22 years. It might have also been the reason he spent 17 years as a medical assistant at the Central Blood Bank in Pittsburgh.
After fighting an illness for a long time, Mr. Zepp died June 19 at UPMC Montefiore. He was 55.
Born in Duquesne in 1957, Mr. Zepp was known around the community from a young age for his jokes, which he often used to uplift moods.
"He was so genuine. He would stop and ask if you needed assistance if he noticed you were down," Mr. Zepp's sister, Brenda Evelyn, said. "He would soon have you laughing so hard that tears would be running down your face."
After attending Duquesne High School, he served a short stint in the Army before joining the National Guard. By the time he retired in 2006, he was a master sergeant at the 171st Air Refueling Wing. It was his responsibility to keep equipment readily available.
Mr. Zepp deeply believed in the duty to serve his country, Ms. Evelyn said, especially after seeing and hearing about other countries throughout the world.
His wife, Lucille Zepp, said he utilized what he learned through his military service to teach Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops survival skills. Because he had so much training, he wanted to pass his knowledge on to others.
Mr. Zepp is survived by his wife; stepdaughters Lori Grybel of Verona, Sharon Zapf of McCandless and Amy Grybel; siblings Brenda Evelyn of Duquesne, William Szep of Indiana, Pa., and Trisha Wilcox of Columbus, S.C.; and 11 grandchildren.
Friends and family will be received at the Walter J. Zalewski Funeral Home in Lawrenceville between 1 and 8 p.m. today. A Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Christ the Light of the World Parish in Duquesne. Burial will be at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil.
Jessica Tully: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1159 and on Twitter: @jessalynn4.