My name is Paul Lanza and I’m honored to pay tribute to Tom tonight. Although he & I have been friends for 24 years and I’d love to tell you stories about our numerous camping trips to the White Mountains, or our spirited racquetball matches, I’m here to talk about Tom and the Foxboro Jaycees.
Tom’s resume as a Jaycee is just about as full and complete as you could imagine. He made enormous contributions to the Jaycees which he joined in 1989. He served as our local chapter president in 1993-1994. Tom was a recipient of the Key Man Award in 1992 and also the Jaycee Life Member Award. The Key Man Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Jaycee member. It is only given to one person each year. The Key Man Award is an acknowledgment of the person who has unselfishly given of their time and effort over the course of the Jaycee year and has shown tremendous leadership skills. This person has been the “key” to Jaycee success over the year.
Tom was honored with a senatorship to the Massachusetts Jaycees Senate, went on to become its President and was currently serving as a Vice President.
When you walked into Tom’s living room, you would see a wall covered with plaques he earned for his numerous achievements.
Although Tom took great pride in his leadership roles at both the local and State level, he was more fulfilled when he could contribute to the community. Many will remember the long hours and late nights in his driveway, building award winning floats for the local Founder’s Day parades, or him standing at the hot grill cooking burgers & dogs at the concession stand.
When the Jaycees’ Christmas Tree sale project sputtered, Tom stepped up and arranged permission to use Invensys’ parking lot. He talked Gil Campos into allowing a really long extension cord from the Remax Building so we’d have lights, and engaged Greg Spier to deliver a mobile office so the workers could have a place to get in out of the weather.
A long past major project for the JCs was the fund raising Pancake Breakfast to support the local CYO Basketball program. It was a time honored tradition that only the most venerated JCs could cook the pancakes. Yup, you guessed it…Tom always had a spatula in his hand.
His most memorable accomplishments came through the JCs Haunted House project, our major fund raiser for many years. Tom was one of the very few who could claim to have participated in all 19 years that our Haunted House was open. He was project chairman in 1992 when the theme was Run It Like Business. I can still picture him as Salty from that year, with a scraggly beard, and wearing his fisherman hat & bright yellow rain slicker pants. It was an immense accomplishment to run the haunted house and still build a room and then act in that room every night for the 13 nights the house was open. He was legendary with his mystifying ghost illusion, that he so creatively varied from year to year to suit the new theme chosen for each Halloween season.
One year, the Haunted House was not going to happen as the main building’s septic system needed to be repaired. There was so little time available and no one knew what we could do to save the project. Well, Tom rallied key suppliers and contractors, as well as coordinating with town officials and he got everything installed and approved just in time for the project to run.
At the end of each Haunted House, it was the custom to have a huge party for all the workers who were involved to celebrate the end of the fun, but grueling event. It was quite the raucous affair with lots of music, people talking and celebrating and in general, plenty of noise. But…the room would come to a hush when it was announced that Tom would recite his Haunted House poem, one of the highlights of the evening that everyone looked forward to hearing. He had an exceptional ability to summarize all the funny, embarrassing and memorable events in a most entertaining poem.
In 2007, the last year that the Jaycees ran the Haunted House project, there was a problem getting people who could commit the many weeks of effort required to conceive of a skit, build it and then perform as actors for the many nights leading up to Halloween. I’ll always remember Tom calling me & saying there was a huge problem and that we had to save the show and build the showpiece, last room, which was important as it had to provide a memorable impression as our guests would leave. Tom & I went over his ideas on a Sunday night for the show opening that Friday. I thought he was kidding as there was no way we could accomplish all that work in so little time. Well, working 16, 18 and 20 hour days, and then all night, we did it. Not only that, but we won Best Room, a coveted award.
Although Tom was often in the middle of our most visible projects, he would always be there to provide help whenever it was needed. That was the kind of person that he was. For example, when repairs were needed for the Bandstand that the Jaycees built on Foxboro Common, he would personally get it done. One year, a signature & iconic part of our town was damaged and needed to be repaired. Jack Authelet called Tom and he repaired it without fanfare. So, now, when I watch my beloved Patriots on TV, I won’t be able to see the big, orange Foxborough sign that all the networks love to show, without thinking about my friend and fellow Jaycee…Tom Sawran.