Longtime Westporter and devoted Assumption Church parishioner Tom Leyden died last week, from complications related to a long-term illness. He was 82.
He was a treasured relative, friend, neighbor, coworker and mentor to many, who appreciated his unwavering commitment to faith, family, tradition and fun.
A Rockville Centre, New York native who moved to Summit, New Jersey at age 5, he earned a BS in chemistry from Seton Hall University in 1959. He was soon commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army Chemical Corps.
Following his military service, Tom worked with Union Carbide for 32 years. He held a range of roles in chemicals and plastics sales, operations, product and marketing management, and corporate purchasing. He retired in 1994 as executive vice president and COO of OSi Specialties,
Tom volunteered his time generously, especially with the Church of the Assumption. He served as president and treasurer of the Assumption Home School Association, was a president of the Parish Advisory Council, and chair of the Parish Finance Committee. He served as a lector for 53 years, and sang in the church choir.
Tom developed and launched the Assumption website in 1997 – the first parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport to go online. He also embodied the spirit of Christmas at holiday masses and events. In recent years, Tom served as a parish trustee. In 2013 he received the St. Augustine Medal of Service from the Diocese of Bridgeport, awarded to “unsung heroes” who unselfishly dedicate their time and talents to develop parish communities.
Tom also served as a coach and manager in the PAL Pop Warner Football Organization. He was an avid “O” gauge model train collector and operator, and 51-year member of the Train Collector’s Association and other collector groups. The ingenious overhead catenary system he engineered for Big Red’s Railroad was featured in TCA Magazine.
Tom and Rita loved Hawaii, and visited the islands nearly every year for more than 3 decades.
Known fondly as “Big Red,” he leaves behind his wife of nearly 60 years, Rita; children Margaret Holda of South Easton, Massachusetts, Patricia Paul of South Grafton, Massachusetts, and Tom Jr. of Westwood, Massachusetts,as well as 4 granddaughters.
Visiting hours are August 12 (4 to 8 p.m.) at Harding Funeral Home. A mass of Christian burial takes place on Thursday, August 13, at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Assumption. Though limited to family, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. it will be livestreamed. Details will be available through the Assumption parish website.
In lieu of flowers, donation in Tom’s honor to a cause very dear to him – The Women’s Empowerment Scholarship, PO Box 380, Monson, MA 01057 — are greatly appreciated.
Tom’s son Tom Jr. adds this tribute:
To summarize a man of such presence and character in a few paragraphs is an impossible task. When the party-starter leaves, the lights dim, the music fades a bit, the energy drops. That’s what we are all dealing with.
Do you know what it’s like to grow up with a man like Tom Leyden in your corner? Can you imagine how much we learned from him? I’m sure you can, because if you’ve been touched by any of the Leydens, you’ve been touched by Dad. His spirit already lives in us because he’s been filling us with that spirit since the day we were born.
He accepted nothing short of 100% and earned every ounce of respect and love he received. Turning that love around and sharing it with the world was his incredible, miraculous gift. Love begets love.
Dad loved people. He loved talking. He loved listening and learning. He loved singing. He loved laughing. Over 4 decades, he and Mom hosted our Memorial Day parties because it was so crucial to maintain that bond of family and friendship. We all know it and live it and love it because of them.
He was the center of our universe. The Boss.
The best bosses, though, listen to those around them and trust their instincts, too. That’s why Mom was such a crucial part of his life. He trusted her and for more than 60 years together, they never stopped growing intellectually, spiritually and religiously – together.
I’ll never forget the day he told me, “None of it matters. The only thing that matters is saving your soul. Got it?”
Friday night, after a powerful conversation with his dear friend, Fr. Tom Thorne, Dad’s soul was ready and he arrived at a place of peace with his imminent passing. He jolted from a deep sleep and told my sister, who was with him, he wanted to say goodbye to Mom. Peggy called me (I was with Mom) and ultimately, we got the whole family on the phone together – Patty and her girls together at their house.
Dad’s final expression of love and thanks for the life he lived was nothing less than you would expect – funny, direct, appreciative and heartfelt. He finished with, “I’m dying. That’s it. That’s what happens at the end. I’m sorry. I love you.”
If you knew him, you know he didn’t owe anyone an apology.