The Greatest Gentleman

The Life and Legacy of Tom Kane

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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

14 Replies to “The Greatest Gentleman”

  1. Thanks Shane for your beautiful summary of the life of our good friend and mentor. We were blessed to have our lives meet and to be able to call him Brother.

    1. It was my pleasure and privilege, Ed. Thank you. He was certainly a blessing to many.

  2. Your elegy captures the expanse of who Tom was to so many from diverse fields. As one of his associates within the Brothers, I thank you for acknowledging who and what he meant to so many. Your words carry the sincerity of all who were touched by the magic and talent of the man we knew

    1. Richard,
      Thank you very much for your kind and supportive words. My sincere condolences to you as well, as we all mourn the loss of such a great man.

  3. My deepest sympathy to Barbara, family and friends . It was a shock to hear of his passing. I was a student at Marymount High school in 1970. Since then I always received a birthday card and we kept in touch. His thoughtfulness, and kindness will truly be missed.

    1. Thank you, Eva. He touched so many and was genuine in his words and actions. Truly one of a kind. My condolences to you as well as he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

  4. Absolutely beautiful. So well written and it encapsulated everyone’s feelings. I’ve known Tom since grammar school at St John’s where he was principal, and he affected every student’s life and how I know is by being at the 50th reunion and seeing what great respect and admiration he received. Tom will be greatly missed by many, but God has some greater plans for him. Thank you Tom

    1. Thank you so very much for your kind and supportive words, Eileen. He had a reach that extended farther than anyone I’ve ever known. He touched so many and did so in such a genuine and authentic way. Truly one of a kind who will be missed by so many. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Im so sorry to here of his
    Passing . He was my music
    Teacher & arithmetic as it was
    Known back in the day of
    Incarnation school . 1966 + –
    In the past year we connected
    Again. With Facebook. He was always fair with us as kids . And a sport if time allowed . Memories will always be there

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Anthony. Fond memories, I’m sure. He was truly committed to his students and cared about each and every one of them. He set an example of such care. His legacy will, no doubt, live on in the memories and actions of those he touched and influenced. I’m glad you two were able to reconnect on Facebook.

  6. My deepest condolence to Barbara and you on Tom’s passing. Your eulogy was beautiful. My father and Tom’s father worked together in the post office. They were friends, Tom’s dad was in my parents wedding party, and his parents were at our house, or we visited at their house. I first met Tom then, I think he was in college. Then we lived in Fl in the next building and we saw them there and they were in our apt for dinner.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Mike. What a wonderful history your families share, and what a beautiful legacy he leaves. My condolences to you as well, as he left a big mark on many hearts.

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