IN MEMORY OF THOMAS J. SMERKE
NOV. 20,1939 - JULY 13, 2012
What can you say in only a few hundred words, about a man who touched so many lives over his 72 years, . He was a person who lived to help others. His interests were many and his passion unending. If you were a friend ( and who wasn’t once you met him) you were a friend for life.
I first met Tom at the Keswick Theatre, about 9 years ago. Being a theatre rat, I can’t pass up an opportunity to visit a theatre, especially when they promise to take you into all the nooks and crannies underneath. As the tour was ending, we came back into the house and headed toward the pit. On cue Tom signaled his side kick Tom Rotunno and the Moller started to play. Wow, a double header! Not only a tour of a theatre but being able to hear a pipe organ at the same time. The 3/19 Moller being one of the best kept secrets in the area, took every one by surprise.
After letting it run through a couple of numbers, Tom started to explain what we were hearing and a about TOSDV. As the group started to thin, I went up to Tom to find out more about the beast. Talking to Tom was like talking to an old friend. We started chatting about thing other than organs and when he found out I had been involved in scouting for many years, that sealed the deal. I was now part of his “family”.
He asked if I would be interested in helping to work on the Moller. This being late Dec. or early Jan. I said that I would be busy for the next couple of month , but as soon as I had time I would give him a call. Of course I forgot to get his phone number. Once April arrived and I had finished up
my projects, I sent Judith at the Keswick a note (as she was the one that gave the tour and my “contact” there) asking for Tom’s phone number.
After a couple of days I gave Tom a call. It was like I had just talked to him last week. He invited me over to see the insides and explained what they were doing.
I stopped by expecting a quick tour and talk, but found myself pulling pipes and poking at chests. That was Tom’s way. He would “sucker” you in and put you to work. And I loved every minute of it. For the next several years I would spend several hours a day, several days a week, helping the two Toms, until I took a full time job at WGLS.
Shortly after “roping” me in to helping them, Tom asked if I would like to attend a board meeting. The next thing I knew, he got me working on a new web site for the group. I must have not been paying attention some where, because the next year, I ended up on the board. Tom was always looking for “good” people to help him with his projects, be it with TOSDV, the Scouts, at his church, or some community project he was organizing.
Tom’s health was never an issue with him. Sometimes when the medications would fight each other he could get cranky, but you knew it was the meds talking and not him. And with in a couple of days you would get a call apologizing for whatever he had thought he had said or done. He was like the Energizer Rabbit. Where he got the energy to do every thing I don’t know. I could only wish I had half the stamina.
I wish I had been able to spend more time with him over the last couple of years but as they say life gets in the way of doing things you want or should do. When I had heard what had happened, my first thought was , Only Tom would pick a fight with a back hoe. He was fearless, he would take on almost any project and see it to completion. Unfortunately, this was one he was not able to win.
Work will go on with the Moller, and some day, if we can raise the money, It will be totally restored and sounding like the instrument that Tom knew it could. The interesting thing is that over that last couple of months the theatre has started to put together plans to restart the tours, and include the Moller as part of them. I’m working with Judith and her staff to see that, that happens. If any one has material about the Moller and it’s history please forward copies to us, So that we can continue Tom’s legacy at the Keswick, and maybe “rope” some new “suckers” in to continuing one of Tom’s dream.
contact us drop us a note at TOSDV P.O. BOX 141 CHELTENHAM, PA 19012-0141
or email to
2013-01-27 17:28:20 -0500