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Saturday, July 11, 2020

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Fraternity brothers and friends remember Mark Tartaglio


Students are heading toward the climax of the semester; they’re getting their graduation pictures ready, purchasing parking permits for next year or just trying to make it through the final exams. Time is flying.

But for a group of students, time isn’t moving forward. It’s standing still.

“I have never prayed out loud until this week,” construction management senior James Lumbley said. “This week my faith has never been stronger.”

“Mio eroe,” or “My hero”

On April 14, human development and computer science student Marshall Schoen was speeding in a white pickup truck that hit two students, construction management sophomore Mark Tartaglio and hotel and restaurant management sophomore Corina Burnett. Reportedly, Schoen veered into the opposite lane to get ahead of a car before the truck clipped it and then struck the students walking nearby.

Tartaglio reportedly passed away shortly after the incident on Saturday, surrounded by his family and close friends.

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Burnett shared her eulogy in front of family and friends on Friday afternoon. | Courtesy of Lumbley

Burnett, who was dating Tartaglio, was later released from Memorial Hermann Hospital with minor scratches and a black eye. She and hundreds of others attended a special memorial service for Tartaglio last Friday.

“Falling in love with you was so easy, saying goodbye to you is heartbreaking. Trusting God gives me hope that ensures we’ll reunite one day,” Burnett said at the ceremony, holding back tears. “’Mio eroe’ means ‘my hero’ in Italian. I love you forever Mark, thank you for everything, and thank you for being my hero.”

Tartaglio’s friends and family stood in front of more than a hundred attendees to talk about the “king of comebacks,” or “Poptart,” how many referred to him after his last name.

“He always had this go-to phrase whenever he was just about to pitch a new idea,” said Dawson Pickett, creator of Tartaglio’s GoFundMe page. “He’d say, ‘Just hear me out, guys.'”

The page, created to cover his medical costs, has raised over $24,000 from over 500 donors.

“Mark saw every single day as an opportunity, he never went a day without a laugh or without putting his family or girlfriend first,” Pickett said. “To celebrate him, we should live as Mark always has: in the present, with friends and family, lots of laughs and lots of love.”

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From left to right: Kevin Diaz, James Lumbley and Mark Tartaglio were lovers of all sports. | Courtesy of Lumbley.

Sports management junior Kevin Diaz was one of the five Kappa Alpha brothers who spoke about their brother on Friday’s memorial service. He said he looked forward to the plans they made with Tartaglio, including the upcoming football game against Oklahoma.

“I’m going to miss the kid,” Diaz said. “I love him, but knowing he’s in a better place makes the healing process easier.”

Lumbley, who was also Tartaglio’s Kappa Alpha brother and college roommate for nearly a year, couldn’t help sharing how much his little brother changed his perspective.

“We had a lot of fun, nothing way too crazy,” Lumbley said. “That’s the thing about him, he was always the responsible one. That’s one thing we can learn from this: being irresponsible can cause some serious consequences.”

Schoen, a member of Pi Kappa Phi, was charged with intoxicated manslaughter on April 20 and will remain in jail without bail, District Judge Mary Lou Keel said last week.

Schoen told the judge he had one mixed drink and three beers before he took the wheel. His blood sample has been taken and the results are pending, prosecutor Alison Baimbridge said. She added that Schoen could face charges for Burnett’s injuries.

If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

The road ahead 

An avid lover of sports, Tartaglio especially loved playing hockey and golf.

“He’ll always be that guy that says, ‘yeah, I’m down,’” biology senior Derick Vinh said.  “Granted, if UH had a hockey team, he’d be all like, ‘can I be your manager?’”

Tartaglio played hockey since he was 5 years old. His team competed in the U.S.A. Hockey tournament when he was 17. When he decided to enroll at UH, he didn’t play so much, but whenever he could, he would visit his little brother’s games on the weekends.

“Mark would take off to Dallas with Corina on a Sunday, just to see his brother play, and make it back for Monday classes,” Lumbley said. “His brother hasn’t been talking to his friends since this happened, he’s been mostly talking to us. We’re going to be there for him.”

Burnett lovingly mentioned the road trips they would take on those weekends, listening to country songs, Red Hot Chili Peppers and rap music, Tartaglio’s recent infatuation.

She shared from her diary how quickly she fell for Tartaglio, after “86 days” of meeting each other.

“From meeting each other on the first football game, to following each other on campus, to being lost on lunch dates due to my horrible directions, and looking into each other’s eyes and feeling something I never felt before, falling in love with you was the best experience on this earth,” Burnett said.

Mark is survived by his parents, Mark and Linda Tartaglio, a brother, Matthew Tartaglio, his grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. His parents ended the service with Luke Bryan’s Drink a Beer,” which somehow felt right as Tartaglio’s friends and family listened and held hands.

The Cougar visited Schoen after his preliminary hearing, but he politely declined to comment further on the situation.

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