I first saw Tom at a corporate training program in Princeton New Jersey. The newly enacted ERISA, the 1974 Employment Retirement Income Security Act, written by lawyers and regulated by bureaucrats was a tome of egregious government speak. Tom was delegated with parsing and translating its application to regular folks like us in the divisions.
Yes, I thought he was cute with his sideburns and mustache, his three piece suit and the way he put his thumb in his vest pocket and lightly turned on his heel. He was continually glancing back in my direction, but not at me. The woman next to me apparently had great legs.
Fast forward to February 1976. I was a newly minted MBA. My divisional president granted me a full month to go to England and Ireland and ‘meet the relatives.’ I have pictures! And on the way home, I expensed my return to my division by stopping over for meetings with the executives in the corporate suite. I was (ahem!) an EIHP, a early identified high potential–also the only female divisional Labor Relations Mgr–in a solidly blue collar manufacturing company of 28k employees. Tom was recruited to take me to dinner, probably because he was the only single male in HR who lived in NYC.
I flew home the next day and told my parents I had met the man I was going to marry. God love ’em, they didn’t even blink.
Tom came out to California in spring for more training for the western divisions, and decided to take a trip to San Francisco over Easter. I joined him and on Sunday night, before I flew back to LA, I said, ‘I think we could make this work for a long time.’ Tom nodded and invited me to move in with him in Brooklyn Heights. ‘Whoa!’ I said. ‘Fly back to NYC, think about it, call me. There is no moving in.’ Two days later he called. I told him there were caveats for the upcoming nuptials: 1.at least four months on either side of my birthday, and, 2. must be over a three day weekend.
In front of three Catholic priests, Tom and I married. A weekend honeymoon in La Jolla, CA, then we headed east. As we went through the mountains of Colorado, the car heater failed. Tom asked why. I explained the air conditioner worked. In Missouri, a gas station attendant (yeah, they had them then) told Tom the tires were bald. I said, ‘God loves us, it’ll be fine.’
Around Ohio I developed an acute case of bronchitis; coughing, hacking, red eyes, lots of green slimy gunk. When we reached our apartment in New Jersey, Tom called my parents to tell them we’d arrived. ‘If we can stay married after this week,’ he told my mom, ‘we will be married forever.’
Many years later, at a university event where Tom was speaking on ‘all things benefits’, the president of a national insurance company attended after just finishing a particulary tough negotiation session with Tom. He walked up and introduced himself. ‘I just wanted to meet Tom’s better half,’ was his opener. I laughed, knowing Tom had just scored an amazing deal. ‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘But you have been negotiating with the better half.’
And it was true.
Tom was a gentle, almost innocent soul; cunning and clever in business, kind and forgiving in everything else. His humor was always young and exuberant; from his puns, dad jokes, ‘house rules’, made up words to his ability to disarm even the most recalcitrant with a dry, witty, well placed phrase. He carried no hidden agenda, took everyone at face value, and was a loving, faithful, mostly willing partner in all my schemes.
I chose him. He agreed. Forty-seven years later I am forever grateful.
Rest well, my love.