Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer
November 10, 2017 // Special

Physician, Catholic philanthropist receives state honor

Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer

During an open house showcasing completed renovations at the Matthew 25 medical clinic in Fort Wayne early this fall, State Sen. Liz Brown presented Dr. Michael Mastrangelo with the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash award on behalf of Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb. Dating back to the 1940s, the award is a personal tribute given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state and is the highest distinction that the governor of Indiana can bestow.

State Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) presents the Sagamore of the Wabash to Dr. Michael Mastrangelo, a Korean War veteran, retired surgeon and tireless philanthropist.

“It’s a privilege to present Dr. Mastrangelo with a Sagamore of the Wabash,” Brown said. “Dr. Mastrangelo’s professional achievements are matched by his devotion to serving the Fort Wayne community and those less fortunate. Dr. Mastrangelo’s humanity in living, loyalty in friendship, wisdom in council and inspiration in leadership are characteristics that make him worthy of this great honor.”

Dr. Mastrangelo’s service to others has been witnessed in countless examples throughout his life. A New Jersey native, he attended St. Francis Xavier High School in New York City, and then Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he received both his undergraduate and doctorate of medicine. His surgical residency began at Kings Hospital in Brooklyn, but was interrupted by two years of military service as a U.S Army Medical Corpsman with the 45th Infantry Division in Korea. For his service, he was honored with an Army Commendation Medal and Combat Medical Badge. After completing his tour of duty, Dr. Mastrangelo completed residency and finally arrived in Fort Wayne to enter private practice as a vascular, thoracic and general surgeon in 1959. His legacy would be felt throughout the medical communities at Lutheran, Parkview and St. Joseph hospitals through his numerous years of service on boards of directors and tenure as president of various medical organizations.

One such organization is the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, where he served two full nine-year terms and is now serving as an emeritus member. Foundation executive director Meg Distler commented, “Dr. Mike Mastrangelo has been a wonderful asset to our work here at the Foundation blending a physician’s knowledge along with a compassionate understanding of the Church’s preferential option to serve the poor.”

Dr. Mastrangelo and his late wife, Grace, were passionately committed to helping support Catholic education. He served on the original school board of directors for Bishop Dwenger High School and continued his service for decades. Beginning in 1993, he and Grace offered a full-tuition merit-based scholarship for a student whose family had a demonstrated financial need. To date, their generosity has funded a Bishop Dwenger education for more than 25 students, four of whom are currently enrolled. “It’s very rewarding to see youngsters develop,” said Dr. Mastrangelo. The first recipient of the scholarship was Jessica Hayes who now teaches theology at Bishop Dwenger and is a consecrated virgin within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

“Dr. Mastrangelo continues to follow the progress of all the recipients and is always interested in where they attend college and what career paths they follow,” said Katie Burns, director of development and alumni relations at the school. “His commitment to our community, our church, Bishop Dwenger High School and our students is just incredible.”

Dr. Mastrangelo and Grace were significant donors to Bishop Dwenger, and they first chaired the inaugural Saints Alive fundraiser. In 2004 they were inducted in the Bishop Dwenger High School Hall of Fame and received the “Citizens of Two Worlds Award” honoring their outstanding contributions to the community.

Dr. Mastrangelo also has a special affinity for Matthew 25, a health and dental clinic that serves the poor from its location in downtown Fort Wayne. He has not only donated free medical service, but has acted as medical director or served on the board of directors since 1991. “While I was still practicing I would occasionally operate on a Matthew 25 patient. This was always a rewarding experience as the patient was always so thankful,” he remembered. “When I retired and had ‘free time’ it was proper to respond ‘yes’ when asked to work in the clinic. It has been one of the better things I have done. It may be a cliché, but ‘giving back’ is very important.”

Mark Dixon, CEO of Matthew 25, called Dr. Mastrangelo “a pillar of a man” and someone after whom we can all model our lives. Fellow volunteer at the clinic, retired dentist Dr. James Frey, described him as being very instrumental in expanding the clinic’s services to several counties outside Allen County, including into Ohio. “He’s greatly admired and respected there,” he added.

Six years ago, Dr. and Mrs. Mastrangelo received the clinic’s “Fabric of the Community Award” which recognizes exemplary service and honors sacrificial and significant contributions that have been key in helping Matthew 25 fulfill its mission. At the same ceremony that recognized Dr. Mastrangelo’s contributions with the bestowal of the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the blessing of Grace’s Garden took place to honor her impact on the larger community as well. Grace’s Garden, is a memorial to Dr. Mastrangelo’s wife who was a master gardener, and is used as a place of rest and reflection for staff, volunteers and passersby on the site of Matthew 25.

Dr. Mastrangelo credits his late wife with all his accomplishments. “First of all, allow me to mention that Grace was most important in all these endeavors and anything done was a mutual undertaking,” he stated. “I didn’t do anything alone.”

Until Grace’s recent death this past April, she served as a liturgical minister. She also was a member of Christ Child Society, Fort Wayne Medical Society Alliance, a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, past chairperson of Trillium Garden Club and was a Purdue University Master Gardener. She volunteered with the Foellinger Conservatory, St. Vincent de Paul Society and Lawton Park Greenhouse.

In addition to recognition by Bishop Dwenger and Matthew 25, Dr. Mastrangelo has received the Msgr. J. William Lester Award Supporting Catholic Education from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the Don Wolfe Award for Community Service from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana and the Helene Foellinger Award for Service from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Dr. Mastrangelo continues his service to the church as a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, where he serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, co-chairs the building fund committee and is a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Still, he remains modest about his generosity and his many accomplishments that will continue to profoundly impact an untold number of lives for years to come.

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