Gary Mazzone seemed to know everyone, friends said. And everyone who knew him also knew his dogs.
The dogs he rescued, fostered and sometimes adopted went almost everywhere with him. He took them to work at Magers and Quinn. Sometimes he took them to Sunday services at Calvary Lutheran Church. And when Mazzone appeared on billboards for the Minnesota AIDS project, his fuzzy canine friends were in the picture with him.
Mazzone, remembered by friends as a lover of books, dogs and nurturing others, died Feb. 23 at his Minneapolis home. His family said he died of natural causes. He was 61.
“He lived life like a celebrity” because everyone knew him, said Mary Magers, friend and manager of Magers and Quinn bookstore in Uptown. But he didn’t act like a show-off. “Instead he lived so humbly and his reach was far and wide,” she said.
Mazzone was born in Chicago and graduated from Jones Commercial High School. He worked in airport operations for Trans World Airlines for 29 years and enjoyed traveling the world.
He also faced challenges that friends say led him to be an advocate for others. He came out as gay at a time when it wasn’t as accepted by society, and he had lived with HIV since the mid-1980s. Mazzone saw his longtime partner and many friends die of AIDS.
An avid cyclist, Mazzone completed at least a dozen long charity rides to raise money for HIV and AIDS research and support and helped train others along the way.
“Gary’s positive attitude, his generosity and his kindness were exemplary,” said Jerry Muntz, who befriended Mazzone during a four-day ride from Montreal, Canada, to Portland, Maine.
In Minneapolis, he shared his love of books and people as the outreach coordinator and sales director at Magers and Quinn. He forged partnerships with nonprofits, churches and businesses, and often hand-delivered books to customers and volunteered to read to students at schools.
Mazzone was also a trailblazer within the LGBT community, tirelessly advocating for rights and acceptance, said Magers. For nearly a decade, Mazzone was a member of Quorum, a local organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community businesses and their allies. He helped the organization attract new members and gain traction.
“He was so encouraging and so loving,” said Rebecca Waggoner, executive director of Twin Cities Quorum.
Waggoner said Mazzone gave her, and many of his other friends, medallions embossed with an angel as a symbol of protection and his everlasting friendship.
During his final days, Mazzone was relaxed, friends said, wearing polo shirts emblazoned with rescue dogs.
He had made plans for his beloved dogs in the event of his death. Underdog Rescue, the nonprofit organization where he had picked four of his five dogs, would serve as their caretaker.
“He was just a wonderful, warm and such a kind person,” said Shannon McKenzie, director of Underdog Rescue. “He really loved helping these dogs see what a great life actually was.”
Mazzone was preceded in death by his father, Victor Mazzone, and stepfather, William Urbauer. He’s survived by his mother, Elizabeth Mazzone and his brother, Cliff Mazzone, and stepsisters Debbie Paha and Michelle Kiela, all of Chicago.
Funeral services for Mazzone will be at 1 p.m. March 18 at Calvary Lutheran Church, 3901 Chicago Av. S., in Minneapolis. Visitation begins at noon.