I have met a lot of people in the eight years PUTC has been around but one person in particular made a lasting impression, became a good friend and was a valued colleague. Tom Keefe was that person. He passed away last week in the company of his family and friends after a tough fight against esophageal cancer.
I first met Tom via e-mail around 1997. He had stumbled across PickupTruck.com and dropped me a note to let me know he enjoyed reading the site. Tom was doing work for General Motors and I was still brand new to the auto journalism thing. It was nice to hear a kind word from someone involved in the industry.
Tom and I kept in touch over the Internet and finally arranged to meet face to face at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This was the year of ‘The Great Snowstorm’ that pretty much closed down all of Detroit right before the start of the show. Detroit Metro was, for all practicality, closed to any inbound or outbound flights because workers couldn’t get out of their driveways to make it to the airport. But somehow the last two planes to make it in before the airport shut down all-together were my plane from San Francisco and Tom’s from Denver.
So here I was this newbie from California, having grown up in Arizona, arriving for the first time in Michigan where it was 20-degrees outside with 6-foot snow drifts and I had no clue how to get to downtown Detroit let alone where Cobo Hall was. However I did know what gate Tom was arriving at and approximately where he was sitting on the plane so when the first few passengers came off I kind of said to no one in particular, ‘Tom?’ I was lucky, he heard me. Tom came right over, we shook hands and he offered me a ride downtown through the blizzard outside even though it was totally out of the way from where his apartment was. That alone should tell you about the kindness Tom had for others.
Tom made sure General Motors invited me on the first press trip I ever took. It was back to Detroit for the introduction of the Duramax diesel and the all new 2001 GM HD pickups. Tom also made sure I was invited to drive the new trucks during an engineering shakedown in Phoenix. This was the break that PUTC needed to get invited to other manufacturers’ ride and drives and I have Tom to thank for that.
Late last year Tom took a more active role with PickupTruck.com.
We traveled together to Nevada to drive the 2003 Ford Super Duty pickups and from the now infamous Ford v. Dodge v. Chevrolet controversy that resulted from that story sprang the PUTC Diesel Shootout – an event I know Tom was born to run. Tom was in his element from the start. In less than 3 weeks Tom got trucks from all the manufacturers and setup testing so thorough that not even the biggest fire-breathers on PUTC’s discussion forums could dispute the results. It remains the most popular story ever to appear on PickupTruck.com.