My brother Tom died September 15.
In March of 2015 he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a particularly deadly type of brain cancer. He initially responded well to treatment, experiencing few side effects, but earlier this year the tumor began to grow again and he was hospitalized for a few weeks in July. He kept apologizing for being a burden, saying that he was the youngest and he should be taking care of us. Finally he was placed in home hospice care and after a steady decline he finally simply stopped breathing. Toward the end it was very difficult for him to express himself, but he still got jokes and smiled and laughed.
Tom was a life-long athlete and sports enthusiast who played on the longest-lasting recreational softball team in his area. As a volunteer he officiated at basketball games and coached youth soccer. One of his teams, the Pink Panthers, gained the state championship for girls in their age group, but he emphasized enjoyment and sportsmanship over winning. On one occasion when his team faced a virtually unbeatable opponent he encouraged his players to forget about winning and instead focus on having as much fun as possible, even switching around what positions they played. They didn’t win, but they played remarkably well and laughed joyfully throughout the game, the baffled stares of the other side adding to their amusement.
On another occasion, when he was officiating at a basketball game, a young boy who had not scored a point all year had a free throw. The ball went in, but the boy stepped a bit over the line. Determined not to take away his one point, Tom turned toward the scorer’s table and shouted, “Count it!” This drew angry reactions from the other team and their supporters, but their coach later came to Tom and apologized, saying that after thinking about it he realized that Tom had done the right thing. The boy’s father told Tom, “You made my son’s year.”
Tom was fortunate enough to have his a dream job, as a sports and features writer for the Wilmington North Carolina Star-News newspaper. He also wrote two columns for them, one of them on youth sports and the other about pets and animals in general. Humane treatment of animals was his other passion, and besides his column he wrote a popular blog on the subject and had thousands of followers on his Facebook page. His editor wrote an excellent article about Tom you can read here. One of his feature articles from 2003 was cited in Garner’s Modern English Usage as an example of the correct usage of the unusual word calender (a type of rolling machine and not to be confused with similarly spelled and pronounced “calendar”).
A memorial service for Tom will be held Saturday, October 1, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, on the softball field where he played for many, many years. Details can be found here.