From the very first time I met Tom I knew that he was a fierce competitor. While he may have been in his late 60’s the competitive sailor fire still burned in his eyes and was substantiated by his race performance on the the track. Not only did Tom know his stuff, to pull off a win. Off the track, Tom was good natured always looked to the very positive in everyone.
In 2012, when it got hot in May and stayed that way until September, and by hot, I mean in the 100’s for days up on days. Tom was determined to race in the July Arkansas Cup Series. As I recall, it wasn’t particularly windy, it was however, incredibly warm even for Arkansas. Tom’s crew had other commitments and I remember the playful pre-race banter that he and I shared about him single-handing and of course winning the race–Tom and I always talked “smack” before a race, he liked it, and it seemed to ease some the pre-race tension, especially on windy days.
I was crewing on Dream-on for the venerable Tom Unger. I was trimming that year, and honestly can’t remember where we finished, because as we finished I noticed Fun making slow circles, her Captain in his signature wide brimmed hat, slumped over at the helm. Bruce Smith fired the motor on Dream-on and we steamed the short distance to his boat. As Bruce approached, I made the transfer to Tom’s boat Fun. Tom wasn’t in good shape. He was overheated and wasn’t making any sense. I knew that Tom needed to be cooled down, so at first I started with lake water, that seemed to help. I knew that Tom needed to be cooled quickly.
Meanwhile a couple of other sailboats approached Tom and I on Fun still doing circles, with me trying to cool off. I managed to get a a few sandwich bags filled with ice tossed from a few near by boats. Tom, who had cooled off some was coming around a bit. Armed with several ice bags, I placed one on his neck. I still had a few more ice bags and knew that Tom needed to be
Tom was a verteran story teller, avid race with a sly and wicked sense of humor.
I realized this when heard him tell the story of his mis-adventures of the summer of 2012 . As an avid racer, Tom insisted upon competing when lesser and younger men where choosing to cool thier keels with a brew. It was one of he hottest summers on record.
Tom’s story of over heating or getting too hot on the race course, when he told it, it usually ended with me asking him to drop his shorts and the suprisied look upon face when I placed bags of ice on his groin to cool him off. I guess somewhere buried deep inside me will always live the paramedic/firefighter.
Sadly Tom passed away last year after a long battle with leukemia. He was and always has been a fierce competitor even in the face of a deadly cancer.