johnmac's rants

Monday, January 11, 2010

Memorial For Tom Shea -- 1/9/2010

On Saturday, January 9th, I attended a memorial in New York City for "a member of the team" (someone from my old neighborhood - Inwood, Manhattan, NYC) who died of ALS. When I returned home, I wrote the following for the Inwood Social Network and the Inwood Mailing List:

Jim Casey, Ed Hartman, and I were the Inwood representatives among the over 100 attendees at the memorial held for the late Tom Shea (Thomas Aquinas Shea), a victim, at the age of sixty-five, of ALS, at Druid's watering hole on 10th Avenue at 50th Street. Tom was the second oldest of the eight children in the wonderful Shea family of 261 Seaman Avenue (of the eight, five were in attendance -- three from California, one from the Washington DC area and one from the Boston area).

As soon as I entered Druid's, it was obvious to me that this was an appropriate place to hold a memorial for a lad who might have moved from Inwood (downtown and to Taos, New Mexico) but did not leave it. Druid's reminded me of the Broadstone in its glory days and, from the recollections of the many who spoke -- family, friends, co-teachers, ex-brothers, and a student -- it was obvious that Tom, even in the darkest days of his accursed illness, had retained the same biting humor, zest for life, and love of his family and friends that we associate with our roots. His enjoyment of literature, sports, music, and good bar conversation was evident in all the stories told and the love shown by the story tellers could not be missed (one speaker said "It's hard for the Irish to use the word 'love' but we loved Tom").

There was music as well as the spoken word and a well done memorial program that concluded with the text of one of Tom's favorite poems, "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats. The poem was also read by an actor near the end of the afternoon.

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I lived across the street from the Sheas and knew from my first exposure to them that this was a special family -- a family whose humor and warmth I attributed to their mother, Mary Shea -- a woman who I held the dearest of all the mothers in the neighborhood. I find it very fitting then that one of Tom's final wishes was to establish a scholarship in his mother's name at Holy Name School (where Tom had been principal) to "reward a student who has demonstrably displayed both integrity and potential -- and whose family financial struggles."

Contributions may be sent to:

Mary A. Shea Scholarship Fund
c/o Holy Name School
202 West 97th Street
New York, NY 10025

For further information, call 212 749-1240

I hope that this group, as it has in the past will step-up-to-the-plate and support this cause in memory of two generation of Sheas.


  • Thank you for the beautiful words about brother Tom and the family, most especially those about our mother, Mary A. Shea

    By Blogger Donald, at 9:01 AM  

  • Thanks Johnny Mac, you captured the time in Druid's beautifully.It was indeed a fitting venue to honor Tom. It was wonderful catching up with the folks in Tom's life.
    I hope to see you during the next visit!

    By Blogger JoEllen, at 7:09 PM  

  • Hello John,

    Your friend was honored in your telling of the afternoon. That was a good thing. I'm not from Inwood, though I have spent many days, and quite a few lonf nights in and around it's places to play and get into trouble. And, i did not know tom or his lovely mother, though I suspect I may have been in his presence a few times in places that attracted all like minded young men down there, and up in Kingsbridge, my old village.

    Mentioning holy Name prompted me to write. I was a catechist there while at Manhattan prep long, long ago. And later, while an agent for the FBN I was partnered with Tim Sheehan who grew up and went to school in the Parisn. Tim later became a priest out in Rockville Center. I am tickled by the thought that he may have said Mass for and shriven a few Inwood and Kingsbridge emigrants.


    By Blogger Peadar Ban, at 7:12 AM  

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