VID Member Tom Connor Dead at 88

Tom Connor

Tom Connor at VID Executive Committee election night, January 2015.

VID Has Lost Another Treasure – Tom Connor

Tom Connor, longtime member of VID and of The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club passed-away on Thursday, August 6th.  A 20-year member of Greenwich House, Center on the Square, and its Advisory Council President for 15 years, Tom also served as a Board Member on Community Board 2 Manhattan and on numerous Committees.  He was known for his focus on the disabled and senior communities, and in most cases an expert on those issues.  His passing follows that of Yvonne Sherwell and Ellen Peterson-Lewis this year.

The Activist

Tom Connor had many friends – all activists in one way or another across a wide array of issues. Allen Roskoff, President of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club offers this condolence: “Part of Toms legacy is that he was openly gay at an early age when few people were. And he stood up for his and the community’s rights always. He was a solid progressive and he deserved to be called one.  I am certain that our members will miss Tom.”

“Tom was involved with the day-to-day operations of our senior center, always there to assist seniors on a variety of issues, including social action. He was a strong advocate for senior’s rights.  Tom always maintained an active role with the Department for the Aging, and their involvement with the senior centers,” said Laura Marceca Senior Center Administrative Coordinator at Greenwich House.

Jonathan Geballe, former president and long-time member of VID has expressed his respect for Tom’s contributions: “Tom was a champion for senior rights and needs.  I learned something so important from him:  that in meetings (and Community Board 2 meetings) we had to be patient – and loving — with people who perhaps did not hear as well or had a different angle.  A favorite of Tom’s was the need for more benches at bus stops and intersections to give a place to rest for disabled and seniors.  Such a simple, inexpensive fix, and so easy for most of us to be blind to, as we hurry about.  But so important to those who need a temporary resting spot.  Tom was ready to raise his voice whenever, so there was also something to learn in courage and determination, all the more so if he was the only voice who saw that need and spoke for it.”

“His opinions were always important and genuine, always something I needed to hear, especially when I didn’t agree!,” recalls former District Leader, Keen Berger.  To Tony Hoffmann, past VID president and now chair of the Campaign Committee,” Tom was a very special person. He was never afraid to speak his mind and always had something important to say. The VID meetings won’t be the same without Tom.” For David Siffert, current VID president, “He was a wonderful human being and was the conscience of VID. He will be missed.”

Mentor and Friend

To others Tom was a kind of mentor, a friend.  “Tom was a fastidious spiffy dresser. He had a great collection shirts.  When I invited him to a Washington Sq. Music Festival Benefit concert in the music school’s garden on Barrow, he wore an ascot and blazer.  Till the very end, Tom cut a noble and striking figure,” says fellow CB#2 and VID member, Lois Rakoff.  She continues, “Tom’s opinions were honest and heartfelt. He particularly spoke out for older people, their comfort and quality of life improvements; he was always the Social Worker (MSW) in thoughts and deed!  We often walked and talked home together after various committee meetings. It’s hard to think of the Village without Tom.”

For Dr. Shirley Smith, a VID member and CB#2 Board Member, “Tom was a friend whose objectivity and sense of fairness to both applicants and neighbors will be missed on the Community Board’s SLA Committee.”

Tom Connor, Kathy Slawinski and Scott Caplan at a Jim Owles Awards Reception, November, 2018.

Kathy Slawinski recalls, “Tom was a good friend for at least eight years.  I met him at VID and he’s responsible for making me a member and an officer.  In an effort to enhance my involvement in the club, Tom nominated me for Recording Secretary, a position I still hold.  When he realized I had to actually do some work, he apologized!  I said not to worry, I was happy to do it.”

Kathy continues:  “We went out after meetings for a drink and a bite, and an opportunity to gossip about the club and politics.  The Wine Cellar on 8th Street eventually became our haven.  When he was stronger, we went out to events together–he was great company.  In recent years, after a series of misadventures, he became more debilitated, but we were definitely in touch.  I’m still feeling the urge to call him and discuss the latest news and the latest gossip.  He also enjoyed voicing his own opinions on the news of the day, and I miss that.”

Greenwich House Senior Center will host a memorial on September 23 at 7pm.  Contact Laura Marceca if you would like to speak. They have also  developed a fund in Tom’s memory:  Tom Connor Activities Fundfor use at Center on the Square.  As you know Tom was an instrumental member and Advisory Council President of our center for many years, and I believe it is a true honor to his legacy to have this fund in his memory.     

There will be a zoom memorial that the two clubs, VID and JOC, will be sponsoring on August 19.

 It has also been suggest that friends can make a donation to SAGE in his honor.  SAGE offers innovative services and programs to LGBT older people throughout New York City.