TNBA Remembers Tom Rowland & A.J. Passarella

Posted: February 18, 2021

Gentlemen were broadband industry pioneers

The Tennessee telecommunications family recently lost two former association board members and longtime pioneers within the industry.

Fredrick Thomas “Tom” Rowland, 69, who served on the board of directors and as association president, passed away last month, and Anthony Joseph “A.J.” Passarella, who served on the TNBA, formerly TTA, board, died Feb. 4.

“Both Tom and A.J. were influential leaders within the telecommunications industry, in Tennessee and beyond,” said Levoy Knowles, executive director of the TNBA. “They made a lasting impact on rural telecommunications, and they will be missed by so many.”

Tom Rowland

Tom RowlandRowland first went to work within the telecommunications industry as a temporary contract worker at Hancock Rural Telephone Cooperative shortly after he graduated from Greenfield High School in 1969. Ten years later, he became the general manager of Daviess-Martin County Rural Telephone Cooperative in Montgomery, Indiana. In 1984, Rowland became the general manager of North Central Telephone Cooperative in Lafayette, Tennessee, where he worked until he retired in 2008.

Rowland has a long distinguished history in telecommunications. He is a past member and chairman of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative Board and served for 13 years on the Group Health Program Trustee Committee, a highly technical leadership position that guides NTCA’s health program. In addition to leading NCTC and the NTCA board, Rowland was active on numerous state and association and boards including the Tennessee Rural Communications Cooperative Association, the Kentucky Telecom Association, and the TNBA. Rowland also served as president of NTCA and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative.

A.J. Passarella

A.J. PassarellaPassarella began his career in electrical engineering in Cincinnati, Ohio, but he later returned to his hometown of Loretto where he served as vice president of operations at Loretto Telecom, which was later owned by A.J.’s father, Ralph Joseph Passarella.

He attended Saint Bernerd Prep School in Cullman, Alabama, and later graduated from Subiaco Academy in Subiaco, Arizona. He then attended Christian Brothers College in Memphis.

A devout Catholic, Passarella was always eager to share his faith with others. He was an active parishioner at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in St. Florian, Alabama. He was a lover of all things Italian, and he contributed to the restoration of the Church of San Francesco in Ostra, Italy. Passarella, a friend to everyone he met, enjoyed hosting and fellowshipping with International students from the nearby University of North Alabama. He invited them into his home as if they were part of his own family.