The great Tommy Leonard passed quietly from our midst yesterday at JML Care Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts at age 85. The beloved founder of the Falmouth Road Race and long-time bartender at Boston’s legendary Eliot Lounge, Tommy was the patron saint of running to thousands of people around the globe.
Tommy’s dear friend Russ Pelletier sent the following note last night.
“Just want to let you know that he never lost his sense of humor. I was with him yesterday afternoon. It was obvious that he was at the end of the line.
Around the bed were three women on the JML staff and myself. He was having difficulty breathing and couldn’t speak. But we knew he could hear us.
So I told him, “Tommy, no matter what the situation, you always have young ladies taking care of you”.
I couldn’t hear his reply, but the nurse closest to him did. I asked, “What did he say?”. She looked at me and said, “I have the best seat in the house”.
He went out on his own terms.”
Thanks to Russ for bringing one last Tommy-made smile to our faces.
Those who knew him well loved him dearly, not just for a shared love of running, but for his selflessness and generosity of spirit. Even those who had never met him felt like they knew him from the stories they’d heard. Such was the effect Tommy had on people, a best friend you might not have ever met.
TL’s contributions were incalculable, and not just to the running community. He and fellow Back Bay barkeep at the Bull & Finch Pub (the Cheers bar on TV) Eddie Doyle raised funds for causes far and wide through the years from their posts behind the hardwood. And though he had grown up in an orphanage and foster homes in western Massachusetts, Tommy created a worldwide family with his Irish glint, zest for life, and an embracing you-centered concern. Like a human endearment machine, Tommy worked perfectly all the way to the end.
True, he was more of a dreamer than a hands-on producer. But TL was a wizard at bringing the right people together – like John Carroll and Rich Sherman in Falmouth, and Eddie Doyle in Boston – while creating an atmosphere where good times were to be had by all. Today, we mourn his passing from a world where such character and traits seem increasingly anachronistic.
It’s with full hearts we send TL off on his next great adventure. Off beyond “the powder-puff clouds and shimmering Vineyard Sound” to make God laugh, angels weep, and more souls that can fit on the head of a pin happy.
Bless you, Tommy Leonard, your light and spirit will continue to shine through to show us the way.