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An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man was true friend and a walking internet of knowledge

'He wanted nothing more than to be there for you'

Sue Hare of Joliet knew early in her relationship with Tom Hare that he was a good man.

At the time, Sue had a dog that didn't warm up to strangers too easily.

"He comes in and that darn dog goes and sits by Tom like Tom's his master," Sue said. "I thought, 'Well, I'm safe to go out with him.

Perhaps the dog sensed Tom’s good heart, which was rooted in faith, family and friendship.

Stephanie Adamowski of Shorewood said she thinks of the Bible verse Philippians 4:8 when she thinks of her stepfather Tom: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

“I hope when I leave the world, I make that kind of impact on people,” Stephanie said. "I really want to be of value, to be kind, to be useful."

Although she was 20 and her brother Steve Pearson of Shorewood was 18 when Tom and Sue married and moved into a small house together, Tom extended himself to make everyone comfortable, Stephanie said.

When Stephanie took eight-hour teacher’s exams four hours away, Tom and Sue drove her there and stayed, waiting. Tom took her kids to school, an activity he greatly missed when he became sick, she said.

She said her kids, during a sporting event, loved looking into the stands and seeing Tom cheering them on.

“He’d wink or smile at you like it was all right with the world, and it was,” Stephanie said. “He was so good.”

Tom organized and cared for his possessions, Steve said. It sounds like a small quality but, to Steve, it meant Tom took pride in anything he owned without ever becoming "pompous."

“All his pants were hung; his nice shirts were hung up,” Steve said. “Whatever it might be, he knew where to find it. If he had something, he was taking care of it.

Steve fondly recalled a couple fishing trips to Canada with Tom and some of his friends where Tom let Steve drive the boat. Tom was not the most experienced fisherman and didn’t mind relying on someone else’s expertise.

“He was a pretty humble guy for as smart as she was,” Steve said.

How smart? Tom’s recall for history or sports-related information was astounding. Steve said if you had a Trivial Pursuit tournament, you’d want Tom on your team.

"If someone brought something up about a Mesopotamian war, he'd jump right into the conversation," Steve said. "The way he could recall things in history — I'm a little envious of it."

Jim Kenney of Downers Grove, said even when he and Tom didn’t share a class at Illinois State University, Tom would often wander into classroom and ask dozens questions.

“One time he came in and asked so many questions, the professor said, ‘Well, if he’s coming back next week, we’d better extend class,’” Kenney said. “Actually he did come back, and we extended the class.”

Kenney, who attended the former St. Bernard’s Catholic School and Joliet Central High School with Tom, said Tom’s father John was a machine gunner on a B17 bomber during World War II, which possibly sparked Tom’s interest in history.

But Tom preferred to glean that information from books or magazines or a face-to-face or telephone conversation. Tom spurned technology, Jim said.

“I don’t think it had a personal touch for him,” Kenney said.

John "Buzz" Gibbons of Palos Heights (Tom's nickname for for Gibbons was "Sonny") met Tom in childhood when they played baseball at Belmont Little League and they remained close until Tom's death and not just because they had the same interests.

"Some of the cheer in my life is gone now that Tom is gone," Buzz said. "When you need uplifting, you could talk to Tom and he would cheer you up."

Steve said he often helped Tom with his membership lists for the Will County Old Timers Baseball Association, where Tom was membership coordinator.

Jim Greenan of Joliet, who sat on the association’s executive board with Tom and coached with Tom for many years at St. Joe’s Park in Joliet, said Tom made baseball fun for the kids while teaching them the fundamentals and making sure they had nicknames.

Tom was always a phone call away if Greenan needed a quick and immediate answer to a piece of sports trivia, Jim said.

And even before Tom officially started dating Sue, Greenan knew Sue impacted him. He saw that firsthand when they were coaching.

“Sue would walk down Raynor Avenue with her dog and all of a sudden Tom’s attention would drift away,” Greenan said.

Sue said Tom always did "little things for her, like taking out the garbage so she didn't have to do it.

"He always acted like he got a prize in me. What girl wouldn't feel special?" Sue said.

Looking out the window of their home will never be the same without Tom sitting outside, reading a book or three newspapers, she said.

Tom’s brother Dan Hare of Joliet said Tom gave everyone nicknames, not the just kids he coached. Dan, who enjoyed wrestling, was nicknamed “Sid,” a nod to professional wrestler Sid Eudy, also known as Sid Vicious.

"He took me to my first wrestling match," Dan said.

Dan said Tom just cared about people and took care of them. Tom thought nothing of lending a few dollars or letting a friend crash at his house for the night, he added.

Tom loved engaging with people and his animals “could do no wrong in his eyes,” Dan said. Tom wasn’t perfect – although he came close, Dan said – and loved to play an occasional practical joke.

“He was a character,” Dan said. “But he was a good type of character.”

When their parents (deceased) were older, Tom took his mother Helen to the boat and his father John to the bar to watch the Super Bowl, activities Tom knew they enjoyed, Dan said.

Sue agreed.

"For the five years his mom was at Sunny Hill [nursing home], he took his mom's clothes home and washed them," Sue said. "He was the nicest man in the world. He always did the right things."

Pay McShane of Joliet worked as a bailiff with Tom at the Will County Courthouse.

“There was nobody in Joliet, and I mean nobody, that knew more about sports than Tom Hare. He was like an encyclopedia,” Pat said. “He could talk about history; he could talk about sports and he was truly a religious person.”

Pat said Tom would hark back to his boyhood days at St. Bernard’s, trying to absorb the lessons he learned and apply them as an adult.

“He was truly trying to live his faith,” Pat said. “And that was a beautiful thing to me.”

Tom was 67 when he died Dec. 23.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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