Posted On December 26th, 2010 -


Retired LT. Gen Thomas “BIG TOM” Rienzi was a man like no other. He will be sorely missed by his daughter Sherri Bulkley, son in law Bob; grandchildren Lisa Rienzi, Thomas Rienzi III, and Michelle Cantor; seven great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, and his extended family. He was predeceased by his wife of 59 years Clare Moore Rienzi and his son Thomas Rienzi II.

He was born in Philadelphia, PA on February 5, 1919 to prominent clothiers Luigi Rienzi and Ethel Johnson Rienzi. Upon graduation from West Catholic High he accepted an appointment to one of the passions of his life West Point, graduating in 1942. Assigned to the Signal Corps he was sent to the China Burma India campaign. After World War II he came home and married the love of his life Clare Moore and with their two children he was stationed all over the world. The minute the Rienzi’s landed in Hawaii in 1957 they knew that this would always be their home.

In 1968 Big Tom was promoted to Major General and stationed in Viet Nam as the commanding general of the 1st Signal Brigade which consisted of 23,000 soldiers. In 1970 he was back in Hawaii and assumed command of the Strategic Communications Command of the Pacific at Fort Shafter. In1972 he became Chief Signal Officer for the Army.

General Alexander Haig was appointed Director General of NATO in 1977 and requested that “Big Tom” join him as a Lieutenant General and assume duties as Deputy Director General, Chief of Staff, and Chief Engineer of NATO Integrated Communications Systems Management Agency (NICSMA) in Brussels, Belgium. Tom and Clare loved Belgium and Europe, but knew that his career in the army had reached its zenith.

Tom, who was always deeply religious, decided to dedicate himself to God. After studying in Washington DC and Louvain, Belgium; Terrence Cardinal Cook, a fellow West Catholic student, ordained him in 1979.
Tom and Clare moved back to their beloved Hawaii in 1979 and Tom became the first permanent catholic deacon in Hawaii.

All through “Big Tom’s” life he was lucky to have great mentors. This was not lost on him and he always tried to help others become better than they thought they could be. No one who asked for his advice or help was ever turned away from this giant of a man.

He passed away on Wednesday December 15 at Tripler Army Medical Center. Memorial Services will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27 at Star of the Sea. Visitations will start at 9 a. m. Inurnment will be at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Dec. 30 at 9:30 a. m.

- Denotes U.S. Military Veteran