... I'm going to a wake today

by Betty Rossi

I'm going to a wake at Gately's Funeral Home today to pay respect -- not final respects -- but respect to a friend. Our friend. Tom. Our Tom. Our beloved friend Tom. Fellow Stringer. Photographer. Story-teller. Lover of all things American. Veteran. Non-confrontational, but full of "spit and vinegar". Our Tom. Witty Tom. Brave, brave Tom.

When I first became involved with the Silver Stringers a few years ago, Tom would have us rolling in our seats with laughter as he'd tell us the tales of his days in the Cheese Business. He was the best photographer, always having the viewer in mind as he shot his pictures. You would look at his photos and feel that you saw what he saw. You almost felt that you wouldn't have to go to a place because he would walk you through it with his photos. Almost like a fine chef who brings his finished dish to the table, Tom would photograph.

And then his voice started to go. I would tell him, "Record your life! Record your life! You have so much to tell!" I don't think that he had a bite of solid food all of the time that I knew him, because of some crazy thing going on inside of his throat. That didn't ever hold him down and I never, ever heard him complain about it. He'd joke and say what a fabulous meal he had just eaten...through a feeding tube contraption that fed him directly into his belly. He still faithfully photographed on every occasion that he was able.

I think that one of the highlights of his life was last year when the girls from Melrose High School took the Melrose Veterans to Washington, D.C. He hopped right onto that bus and took picture after picture of the whole trip. Those pictures and his tales of the trip were wonderful! He took photos at the Aviation Museum of the airplanes, especially the ones that he flew in during the war. He was so proud to be an American Veteran and proud to be an American.

About a year ago, Tom said that he was going to be losing his voice box, and his means of communication became a Tablet. That didn't hold Tom down. No way! He'd come to the Stringer meetings and would kill us with laughter -- even with just his writing tablet- and he never, ever complained.

Tom came to the last couple of meetings and looked wonderful. He even gave a "thumbs up" sign when asked how he was doing. He wrote that he felt good, but that he was worried about his wife because she hadn't been feeling well. He was writing a story about his stay in the hospital and had taken photos out of the hospital windows of what he saw every day of his many stays in the hospital. I told him to write out his story and that I'd type it out for him.....and now he's gone. Tom. Our Tom. Our Beloved Friend Tom. Our friend Tom. Tom Dillon.  

February 7, 2014

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