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Ed Mazzer lit up Antietam National Battlefield, literally

July 20, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Edomo Pietro "Ed" Mazzer, who died July 4 at the age of 78. His obituary was published in the July 7 edition of The Herald-Mail.

In 1988 - the first year that Antietam National Battlefield held its luminaria ceremony - Park Ranger Ed Mazzer and his wife, Chris, were in the first car onto the battlefield to view the 23,110 candles commemorating the casualties of the Civil War battle on Sept. 17, 1862.

After all, it was only fitting.

"Ed set up the first July 4 celebration as well as those first luminarias," said Mike Barnhart, a retired park ranger who credits Ed with inspiring him.

Ed died July 4 at the age of 78.

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Again, how fitting.

A long career as a U.S. Park Service employee included his Antietam assignment from 1974 to 1991, when he retired as chief of interpretation and resource management at the battlefield.

"We lived in a house near the Dunker Church, right on the battlefield," Chris said, noting that house since has been torn down. "There was a monument in our front yard."

That monument, which still is there, led the couple's two children to believe they lived in a cemetery when they were younger, Chris said.

In 1974, Maura was 5 and her brother, Mark, was 3.

When Ed and Chris were newlyweds, the U.S. Park Service had strict guidelines for its employees, Chris said. When the word came to move from one post to another, Ed told her that you either had to "go or else."

Mike said in those days, when the park service officials hired a ranger, they counted that as 1 1/2 employees.

"That's because the ranger's wife was usually at home with the radio and telephone duties," he said.

Chris said she didn't really understand that concept completely until one day when she wondered who the person identified on the radio as "82 1/2" was.

"I found out later it was me," she said.

Ed and Chris, both Pennsylvania natives, met at Arizona State University in Tempe, where Ed was a student who often carried the mail to the campus.

Chris was an employee there.

"I had no car, so I began riding to work with him," she said.

At first, Ed was studying to be a forester, but later switched to zoology, graduating in 1960. His first park service post was in Arizona.

Sometimes, Ed would be away for 30 days at a time.

"People would call and come to the house, asking a lot of questions about plants, et cetera," Chris said. "I didn't know the answers, so I'd make things up."

Over the years, Ed and Chris were stationed at a variety of parks, including Glacier National Park in Montana, where in July 1960, Ed was one of five hikers attacked by a grizzly bear and her cubs.

The story of the attack was told in great detail in a 1965 article in Life magazine, naming Ed, another ranger, Alan Nelson, and three tourists.

Ed and one of the tourists climbed trees high enough to avoid injury. The other three were seriously mauled, but through Ed's efforts, all were rescued and survived.

Ed's words to his companions formed the headline of the story - "Bear! Bear! Bear with cubs! Get up a tree! Get up a tree!"

Then, there was Fort Jefferson National Park, 80 miles off the Florida Keys. Now known as Dry Tortugas, the park is accessible only by boat or air, Chris said.

"We were there a year," Chris said, noting that she found out she was pregnant with their first child while Ed was there.

Ed then was transferred to the Everglades. Maura was born in Homestead, Fla.

"My dad was great. ... Couldn't ask for a better one," Maura said.

Once when the power went out, Ed sat and stirred the water in Maura's aquarium so her goldfish wouldn't die. Then, there was the time when Maura's pet baby squirrel accompanied the family to a Miss USA Pageant because it needed constant care.

When Ed, Chris, Maura and Mark moved to Sharpsburg, they became a part of the community. Ed worked with the local fire and rescue companies. Chris, Maura and Mark often volunteered at park and community functions in the Sharpsburg area.

Many nights, Mike and Ed would be at the top of the observation tower looking for people trying to take artifacts from the fields.

"Ed took his protection responsibilities seriously," Mike said. "But all we got was cold."

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