The Greatest Gentleman

The Life and Legacy of Tom Kane

Dad10

Hello. My name is Shane Svorec. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the girl Tom walked down the aisle on her wedding day. It truly was “Unforgettable” (which happened to be the song we danced to at my wedding) but as magical and monumental as that day was for me, it was all the days I shared with him before and after that one, that I cherish most. I met Tom when I was a student at Nyack Middle School. To this day, I still find it a challenging story to explain. Perhaps it’s because I’m not really sure how it all began, but somehow, somewhere along the way, a wonderful bond was formed. I remember having lunch with him in his office on many occasions and we would share things about our day. Having lunch with your principal might not sound like a popular choice among middle schoolers, but it was the highlight of my day.

After middle school graduation, we maintained our connection through letters, cards, and phone calls. It was after college graduation that we began getting together again for lunch, only now our lunches were longer, the food was better, and the topics of conversation were many. While we got together for various events and special occasions over the years including birthdays, Baptisms, special dinners, housewarming parties, Halloween at Four Seasons, and most recently his induction into the New York State Middle School Association Hall of Fame, it was our lunches that I really looked forward to and cherished the most.

For over 33 years, our lunch dates became our official “check-ins” on each other. We would sit and talk about everything, from life, kids, work, which room Barbara was rearranging, travel plans, and social calendars. It was over these lunches that I discovered just how much Barbara and I were alike. Our desire to have things just right, our decorative urges, our love of adventure, and our busy social lives. There was a certain sparkle in his eye when he spoke about Barbara, and as he filled me in on all that she was doing “these days”, he would say that he was tired just thinking about all of it.

As I sat down to write this, I struggled with how to begin – not because I didn’t know what to say, but because I have so much to say.  How do you describe a person who has touched so many - leaving footprints too big to fill, let alone follow in? It was at this point that I thought about all of our lunches and the countless stories he’s shared with me over the years.  The more I thought about the relationship I was blessed to have with him, the more I realized that it was because of our special relationship, that I was able to have a sneak peek into all of yours. Through his colorful stories, humorous pictures, and descriptive letters, I can easily speak to the importance of all of you.

Over the years, I learned a lot about his family- his mom, his dad, his beloved sister and her family- including his niece, nephew and their children. His dad was a mailman and so he always seemed to have some quip or fact to share with me about the United States Postal Service, a sort of “Did you know” series came to be.  Punctual, reliable, and organized would appear to be strong traits in his blood line. His mom was a kind and gentle woman, and I got the feeling whenever he described her, that his sense of pause and affection was inherited from her.  He shared stories about his sister-from childhood trips to the circus at Madison Square Garden, to various vacations, and even coastal weather reports and storm evacuation plans if needed. He always kept me updated on how things were going down south with the family. He was proud of where he came from and who he was related to. I got to know the kids in the family (both on his side and Barbara’s).  Through our many conversations, I always knew what they were up to, the grades the younger ones were going into, and what they all liked and enjoyed.  He was very proud of his niece and nephew, and then of his great nephew and nieces!

I loved hearing stories of when he was a Brother and the great friendships he made, and still had. His words to me- “How many people can say they’ve had friends for over 65 years!” His days in the Bronx sounded like something out of a movie and I was always enthralled in the many chapters that made up this period of his life. There were endless stories about former students, the good, and the challenging ones he never gave up on.  I heard all about the time he was invited back to a 50th class reunion and how special that made him feel.

I enjoyed hearing stories about when he worked at the Mental Health clinic and how challenging and emotionally draining that job was. As a Carly Simon fan, I was interested in learning that Carly’s mom, Andrea Simon, also worked there and therefore Carly would stop by and visit from time to time. He told me that Andrea used to call him “Thomas darling”.  I was updated regularly on various home projects and the many stories that accompanied them. His appreciation for a particular handy man named John, was always noted.  Oh, and the many holidays spent with Barbara’s cousins were sure to be fun and filled with lots of laughs. He took comfort in knowing that Barbara had such a loving family who they spent time with regularly.

When the seasons changed, I could anticipate photos of their yard decorations, and in them, could feel the pride he took in the home (or as he called it “Casa Kane”) that he shared with Barbara.  If there was an event at Four Seasons, you could bet that I would receive a run-down of the details (not only in my very own copy of The Voice) but in his excitement for, and dedication to, all things relating to this friendly community they called home. Whether it be the big job of handling lights and sound, hospitality for various parties, treasury positions, or the annual pool opening festivities in which I learned hot dogs are a VERY big deal, he was proud to be part of it. I recall GIANT fears over a very large tent as planning for the 20th Anniversary Celebration was under way, and I felt privileged to receive a “revolutionary copy” of an article that never made it in The Voice regarding cameras in the clubhouse.

When he and his co-writers were busy working on the book, Advisory, I would get updates on their team approach and their unique system of writing, and then sending their portions on to the next person. Then, of course, the many meetings that took place at various locations before it was published. He enjoyed working with this team and was very proud to share this great achievement with them. I felt like I knew their friends intimately as he shared with me the great pleasure he found in their frequent gatherings and many dinners out. Of course, the day wasn’t complete without a stop at the Beanery, and I too, would come to know and love this special place where everyone knew his name.

He spoke of former colleagues and teammates with great passion and joy, and whenever he mentioned several secretaries, he would describe them as if they wore super hero capes. He had great respect and appreciation for those he worked with and always filled me in on who he had an opportunity to catch up with “after all these years”. When it came to NYC, I could always count on him to give me honest reviews of all the Broadway shows they went to see and the restaurants that Wowed them.  Of course, the added convenience of using Broadway Ray made these evenings out a breeze. Oh, and the stories (and pictures) of when he marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade- Ye Gads!  What a great toy solider he was!

Of course, there were the many conferences that he attended and the countless presentations and workshops that he gave in hopes of inspiring and supporting other educators. A song by one of his favorite artists could be inserted here: “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash.

He took every opportunity he could to invest in education by sharing his knowledge and experience with others (and for the years that are often overlooked and need the most attention).  “This We Believe” is what HE believed and the memories he made and the efforts he invested both in NY and NJ, were ones he was so proud of and honored to share with esteemed colleagues.  He was a proud Irishman who enjoyed an occasional Margherita. And Barbara, oh, how he worried about her when she had the dizzy spells. From Chiropractors to resetting inner ear crystals, he would take her anywhere to find her some relief.  All of the worrying he did was relieved when they took their first flight after that long, disruptive bout and she did well. Sometime later, he would also develop a short bout of vertigo, and his correspondence to me came from what he dubbed “Dizzy Land”.  He admired Barbara’s social abilities and loved how she always made their house a home.  He found her to be the most beautiful woman-even if he didn’t say it often.

He talked a lot about faith, beliefs, and the churches they attended (both in NJ and FL).  Born and raised Catholic, he discovered a great love and respect for the Episcopal church and admired that they had women deacons and pastors who he really enjoyed listening to.  He always remarked at how welcoming everyone was in this church.  He shared with me the volunteer missions for the homeless that he and Barbara had become involved in while in FL, and how he enjoyed being able to help and give back. I became very familiar with the “Groupie News” and enjoyed hearing about the time he met Dorothy Day when he was the Director of the Day Juniorate.

It seemed when the cold wind began to stir, talk of the “Snowbirds” travel plans would ensue, and I was sure to receive a well-documented itinerary for reference. He loved going to FL, enjoying the warm weather, watching the sailboats come and go, and the palms trees as they swayed in the wind.  The only thing he loved more, was Barbara and sharing every great adventure with her.

Tom Kane was a man of character, integrity, and deep conviction.  He had a giant heart and a giving spirit. If he loved someone of some thing, he talked (or wrote about it) in great lengths and with deep passion.  We shared a love of Willie Nelson, and just like good ole Willie who transcends and connects with the most diverse groups of people from Dolly Parton to Snoop Dog, Tom found a way to connect with everyone from many different walks of life.  He was one of the most observant people I knew. A people watcher, a date keeper, and a note writer, he paid attention, showed affection, and made people feel special. 33 years of lunches, letters, and other correspondence have now become a recorded testament of this as he shared with me an awful lot about who and what he loved.  I couldn’t possibly write about every person in this room or about every story that he ever shared, but I hope that each and every one of you know that as much as he left an imprint on your hearts, you left one on his.  I have never known anyone to show such care and thoughtfulness for others.  If you were fortunate enough to have been cared for or loved by him, you are a better person because of it. The power of his presence now lives on in all those he touched, and his influence will forever be a gift to those who received it.

As I read through some of the comments that people shared on my post about my Hero, there were so many that stuck out, yet all conveyed such fondness and respect for the greatest gentleman. Relatives, friends, former colleagues, students, neighbors….they all shared a similar message, and that was that he made the world a better place.  He truly was my Hero and I will forever be grateful to call him my Dad.

His last email to me began like this:

"Our morning routine includes, opening the floor to ceiling vertical blinds...I call it unwrapping the day...and if there is a soft breeze the palm trees wave good morning to me."

His beautiful imagery offers peace in our time of loss. He has earned his reward in Heaven ten times over and now enjoys the views he so loved. As we go on, I urge you to remember the ways he inspired you, to think of how he cared for you, and cherish why he loved you. Carry his memory forward and lead with his zest for life. Never underestimate the power you possess to change someone’s day, and thereby, impact their life. He epitomized what’s possible if one only takes notice and shows care for another. He has taught us all how to live a life of great meaning and purpose.

In celebration of his life and in honor of his great memory, I leave you with this Irish Blessing:

“May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

 

TSC of YSS and LYL Dad,

Your Daughter....Shane 

And to beautiful Barbara, the love of his life.....

 

 

Unforgettable

The Little/Big Pieces – Why sorting through them over and over again is so important.

Ready, set, go!
Carry only what you need and refuel often.

A child dumps his entire toy box out onto the floor, and our stress begins to build. We just “contained” the mess, and now it’s strewn all about again. The never ending exercise of picking things up and putting them away is a fruitless effort. Or is it?

What a lesson this tireless exercise teaches us though, if only we sit back long enough to observe.  Amidst the “mess” lies a stark parallel to our life as adults. In the overwhelming pile of “things” on the floor, we notice that there exists items that we use/need everyday, and those that we don’t use very often, but we treasure very much and can’t seem to part with. Inevitably, there’s always some trash mixed in there too. If we truly want to feel good about our efforts, we go the extra step and throw it all away then, instead of putting it back in the toy box to deal with later. 

And then…..there are the little pieces. The smaller items that once were part of something bigger, but somehow became separated, and are now just random bits and pieces of something larger that they are no longer connected to. 
You know these pieces. They are the ones that fall to the very bottom of the toy box and are often forgotten about until that day comes when we actually need them, but then can’t find them. We often overlook and underestimate these “little pieces”, not realizing that without them, we are just holding onto bigger things that are incomplete. We hold onto all of these little pieces in hopes of, one day, reconnecting them and making them whole again. 


What’s most noticeable though, is that it’s these little pieces that can often be the most valuable. If you’ve ever watched a child dump out his/her toy box and stumble upon a small, seemingly insignificant piece, and hear them say “Oh!!!!! I’ve been looking all over for this!!!”, you know the gratification that is felt in that moment. Yet, we dump these boxes out over and over again, pack them back up, but rarely put any effort into actually sorting through the pieces. Eventually, we get tired of moving these random, misfit pieces back and forth and all around, and we decide to throw them out, only to find the part it belongs to long after it’s gone.  

Our lives are a lot like an overfilled/unorganized toy box or tool chest. We do our best to keep it all contained, we hold onto various pieces that no longer fit or appear to belong, but think “one day” they might. We often overlook all of the little pieces that fall to the bottom of our containers, and our priorities, only to find that they were the most important after all. 


If we don’t take inventory of broken, missing, or incomplete pieces, we often lose sight of some of the most valuable parts of our life. On the other hand, if we find that we’re carrying around lots of odd and end pieces that we no longer need, use, or enjoy, it’s time to let them go. We get too comfortable in the process of clearing things from our sight and throwing them all into a box to deal with later. However, in order to truly move forward in a positive and productive way, and allow room for the right things to be stored and appreciated, we need to practice “picking things up and putting them away” over and over again. We need to take inventory regularly.

So, today, make a commitment to make room, clear the clutter, and find those small pieces in your life that need to be reconnected and made whole again. This is how we make space for the things we truly love, cherish, and need in our life. 

“Live Better. Learn More. Laugh Harder. Love Deeper. ” Shane Svorec #thelookupgirl