Profiles in Courage: Mr. Tom and Mary Ellen

December 3, 2018

Some people not only push the limits, they exceed them. Mr. Tom is one of those people. It started at a young age. As a young man in high school, he hitchhiked from, his home state of Delaware to northern Idaho to be a Junior Forest Ranger and spent the entire summer in a fire tower by himself! And he liked it so much that he returned after his first year of college to do it again.

In college, he played basketball and soccer. He achieved his Bachelor’s in teaching and ultimately went on to complete a doctoral degree. In 1955, Mr. Tom joined the U.S. Navy and trained as a deep sea diver, serving in the Pacific and based in Pearl Harbor. Years later when he was discharged, he was a lieutenant. He and his beautiful bride eventually had seven children of their own, by many children over time looked up to Mr. Tom, both through his teaching years and his years as Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit. And kids aren’t the only ones. Adults have looked up to him too, as his career allowed him to join Fort Benjamin and the U.S. Army as an education specialist.

But with Mr. Tom, it’s not just the big adventures and happenings that touch people. Growing up, his kids used to roll their eyes at many of the things that their dad would do. But sometimes the eye rolls were really to cover for things they loved – the silly sayings, the jokes or traditions like when their dad would do things like cut a star out of cardboard, wrap it in tinfoil and place it on the top of their Christmas tree.

This past Christmas at Joy’s House, we asked Mr. Tom to make us one of his special stars. It’s interesting how a person who can’t remember the things that happened yesterday can remember the things that happened so long ago. All we had to do was place the materials in front of him and within minutes…magic…he handed us a star and helped us to place it on top of the tree. (Remember the picture in Tina’s note?) The look on his wife’s face when she picked him up that day was simply the best. And we hear that when she told their kids about it, well, let’s just say that it was hard to see their eyes roll through the joys and smiles that this simple moment brought to them all.