Deceased January 8, 2003
The following is a eulogy delivered by Allan S. Lerner '51 on January 13, 2003, at Emmanuel Church, Boston, MA.
Good morning. My name is Allan Lerner. Tom and I were classmates and fraternity brothers as well as close life long friends for 56 years. Way back, we came to the conclusion we were "brothers" to each other, making up for the brothers we never had. I am privileged to be here, but, as all of you, I wish I was not.
Many of you know that my brother Tom would start to feel uncomfortable and begin tugging at his left ear lobe (or was it the right?) whenever matters became too sentimental or personal - he was not a man who could be reached or swayed by echoing accolades or kinetic kudos. He aIways knew just who he was - where he came from where he was going. His life and accomplishments were extraordinary.
I'd like to reach for him today - with you - to cherish and celebrate that remarkable life tenure rather than mourn his death in spite of the immeasurable loss and aching abyss we all feel. These last four weeks as well as a good part of the last few years, we witnessed his remarkable and exemplary courage, strength, good will, competitiveness and determination. For well over two years he was constantly there for his wife Betsy until her untimely and tragic death January 4 last year. At the same time and before, he himself was already suffering bravely from his own illness that proved terminal.
Lest anybody thinks he lost his battle January 8, let me say in a language I cannot speak "au contraire"? I'm here to say LOUDLY & CLEARLY - my dearest friend and brother won again AS USUAL. OK, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I confided in you that it is true - I did win a few tennis and ping pong events we contested over the years - but could never beat him on his home putting surface in the Dominican Republic and surely I would never walk on a golf course with him!
And here is how Tom won his most critical last battle: his legacy as a caring, loving, kind, supportive and gentle Father will ALWAYS be with Peter, Michael, Tom and Lisa - you four do and will treasure and pass on to your families his compelling, competitive camaraderie you all shared. And, as an aside, I want you to know that your grandmother Nancy was the font for most of those genes - a beautiful, warm and very special lady as were your respective mothers - I love you all. And you might ask how else did he win and emerge the victor in life and forever more? Debbie, Debbie, Debbie - your determined devotion, absolute adoration, incredible intensity and undying union brought Tom a new outlook I believe - set new goals and added an inner peace and courage for him to look beyond life. The picture of your supporting arm around his back during the wedding SAYS IT ALL. We love you Debbie.
At least a dozen or more of our Amherst classmates have spoken to me offering condolences as well as support and deepest sympathy to all the family. They also expressed most interestingly and tenderly not only their respect for their beloved classmate but also the hope that his personal quintessential qualities not be blurred or overlooked in the deserved celebrity that also surrounded him. It was most touching.
So it is not necessary for me to rattle on to attempt to drown out the media - these remarks of mine are intended to speak for all of the great Class of 1951. As for public speaking and competition, Tom and I shared a gut public speaking course where, as usual, he excelled and I came in a weak second or more - but I thoughtI didn't lose on substance but rather procedure - he could stand so straight and tall and I always seemed to be swaying and wobbly!
Let me try to focus on Tom's remarkable Dignity and Elegance along with his Modesty, Philanthropy, Scholarship and Integrity. It is no wonder his achievements were so spectacular (oh dear I can see him tugging at that ear lobe again). When he came to Amherst, he had no money - he lived with Prof Dwight Salmon (Buck to the initiated) after one year in the freshman dorm. Years later when he was about to make his first major gift to the College, he called and asked what I thought about making that gift in the name of Prof. Salmon rather than his own or his father's. I asked him if he felt comfortable and sure not to do it differently, but I sensed he had made the decision in his own mind. What a tribute to Amherst and Buck Salmon. This was the man's grace and brilliance!! He called again one day at a later date saying he was flying to NY and wanted to have breakfast together as he was to be named CBS Pres. later that day - what did I think. This time, not wanting to waver as previously, I ceremoniously cleared my throat and hollered - "TAKE THE JOB? I continued saying, "Your resume and background are perfect for the Media - you have been in candy, film, vegetables and flour - not a problem?
Please don't misunderstand - I never charged for such penetrating advice - not that he would have paid, but at least he never called collect. And call again he did - inviting me up to the CBS dining room for lunch one day. I knew that day would shatter the myth that there is no free lunch. I raced up to Black Rock headquarters. There he stood, after I was ceremoniously passed and approved by many secretaries through many antechambers looking a bit sheepish, I thought, amongst the remarkable Paley art treasures gracing all the walls. His office seemed more than adequate for lunch but he ushered me through a maze of other rooms - quite a walk - and then into the dining room. Now I was hungry, the hike was so long, not to mention a table of almost equal length where surely the food could get cold from one end to the other. Four elegant waiters served us in white gloves and jackets. My host said modestly with eyes downcast, 'What do you think?" Feeling on a roll now I blurted out, "It's a bit upscale - BUT KEEP IT & THE HELICOPTERS TOO." I knew my beautiful friend with his boyish modesty and elegance was really tacitly saying to me - "hey isn't this fun - even if a bit overdone." He never got swallowed up in the trappings of office - he never went big time - he knew who he was - he always had time for family, friends, classmates and Amherst. This was still the St. Louis kid - feet planted firmly on terra firma - himself rather bemused and in awe, with his charming naivet?at his surroundings and good fortune in a spectacular career - all achieved on his own outstanding merit. And when the seas became rough, he had the extraordinary talent and dignity to go on to an even greater second career. Truly a man for all seasons - A Renaissance Man.
And so my dear brother Tom, family and friends, let us all be thankful and grateful we could walk together as long as we did. He has our love and we have his. Now the helicopter rides are over, the corporate dining room is empty, all mergers completed, titles and board seats vacant and even that personage in Augusta addressed in appropriate if not quite elegant language. We are left - not alone - but forever having a clean and. clear vision of THOMAS HUNT WYMAN, the man all of us will always love for what he represented as an exceptional and unique human being. Hark - he's playing through - FORE! Amen