Family, friends and old colleagues remembered Capt. John F. S. Graziano as a “kind-hearted” person, who spread his faith and love to everyone he met.
Graziano, 28, was on his way to achieving his dream of becoming an Air Force fighter pilot when he died Nov. 13 in a T-38C Talon jet crash at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. He was an Air Force captain with the 86th Flying Training Squadron.
Officials are investigating the crash, which also injured Capt. Mark S. Pakyok, another instructor pilot.
“He told us, when he was 2, he was going to be a fighter pilot when he grew up,” said Graziano’s father, Tom.
Archbishop Spalding High School, Graziano’s alma mater, hosted a memorial mass Tuesday to celebrate the Elkridge native’s life. Graziano graduated from the school in 2008. He played basketball and soccer, and ran cross country and track.
Three weeks after the tragic crash, dozens of mourning Spalding students and staff — some of whom had known Graziano for years — crammed the school’s chapel to remember the fallen airman’s life.
“He was one of my very first students when I started teaching,” said Bianca Huminski, a religion teacher at Spalding. “He was in a league of his own. He was gracious, kind-hearted, dedicated and hard-working.”
Huminksi and Graziano would later reconnect when he returned to Spalding to work as a substitute teacher. They spent their free time talking about religion, Huminski said.
The oldest of four, Graziano attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help for elementary and middle school. He enlisted in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2008, his father said.
Graziano’s younger brother, Paul, joined his parents at Tuesday’s service.
“We were best buddies since I was born. He was a really amazing human being, a man of integrity,” Paul Graziano, 26, said. “He was a role model for so many people, not just his little brother.”
Father Tom Ryan, who led the Tuesday afternoon mass, also remembered Graziano for his morals.
“Some apples don’t fall far from the tree,” said Ryan, who got to know all four of the Graziano kids. “They were kind, simple students.”
Graziano’s father said the other airmen on base knew his son as a man of faith, who often mentored people in ranks above him. He had logged more than 1,300 hours in the cockpit, his father said.