This past January we went back to Detroit again for the auto show. We would work all day hitting the press conferences and then stay up most of the night churning out stories, ‘borrowing’ high-speed wireless Internet access from one of Tom’s auto-consultant neighbors to post the latest news.
I could go on and on with stories I have about Tom but that would be selfish.
In the past few days I have spoken with and received correspondence from many who knew Tom.
Rick Asher, a spokesperson for General Motors, says that Tom was able to, “walk any path when it came to trucks.” He could take the most complicated feats of powertrain engineering and readily distill them into concepts the average buyer could understand and appreciate while making their decision in the showroom.
Rick also described how, during a GM Heavy Duty media event for journalists, “Tom served as the ticket taker at the opening of the event which was for the premiere of a short film his company, VSI, had produced for the event. Tom had a hand in writing, directing, producing and editing the film, yet he wasn't too egotistical to consider taking tickets as being less than him. That's the kind of guy he was, brilliant, yet willing to give you the shirt off his back or help in any way he could.”
Patty Nolan, who once worked with Tom at VSI said, “Tom was cut in the larger-than-life model that we don't see too often these days. Somewhere in this town there are miles of video footage of Tom doing what he did best - talking about trucks.”
Maria Rohrer, from Chevrolet’s Silverado brand team, left me a voice mail mentioning Tom’s incredible ability to market trucks to every segment of buyer possible.
But I don’t want to leave out the most important people in Tom’s life, his family.
I traveled to Florida about two weeks ago to see Tom one more time before he passed away. Tom’s wife Liz was gracious enough to have called me to let me know he didn’t have much time left.
I wish I could have met Liz and Robert under different circumstances. Over the years I had briefly traded jokes over the phone with Liz when I was with Tom and had only heard stories about his son Robert who is a flight engineer in the Navy and has faithfully served our country - recently flying P-3s over the Gulf during the war with Iraq.
I could always tell Tom deeply loved his wife and was as proud as a father could be about his son the aviator.
It was painful to see Liz and Robert have to say goodbye to Tom but I am consoled with the thought that they at least got to spend those last few days together.