My Uncle Tom was quite the character.

My dad loved to regale us with stories of his older brother’s antics and influence on his life. Tom was born in 1914. Dad’s father, my grandfather, worked for CN Rail and was away most of the time, working hard at one of the few jobs available during the depression. So Tom became the “father” of the household because he was the oldest of the eight children.

My dad told the bitter story of coming home from school one day to find the tiny family home burning to the ground. Everyone was in a panic as water poured into the house from the few available hoses. Eventually the fire smouldered to nothing. When the smoke cleared the old family piano was the only thing still standing. Tom walked up to it, brushed off the ashes and sat down. He tested the sound and then started a rousing rendition of “Roll out the barrels, we’ll have a barrel of fun,” actually getting those in the gaping crowd to join in.

Later in life Tom and his wife, my aunt, bought a convenience store in a small town and lived upstairs. One night they heard noises and rustling downstairs. Tom crept into the shop and discovered two hooligans rifling through items and looking for cash in the register. He switched on the lights. The two guys were startled and one raised a gun at Uncle Tom threatening to shoot him if he didn’t back off. Tom sauntered over to where he stashed his scotch and told the guys to relax and have a drink. He assured them in an easy fashion that he wasn’t going to report them. One drink turned into two, and three, and four…until they were drunk. Tom took the revolver effortlessly from the one guy, called the police and they were arrested.

Tom founded The Commodores (not “those” Commodores), a jazz band that still exists to this day, entertaining audiences throughout the Belleville and Kingston areas of Ontario. He had received no formal training; he was a self taught pianist and musician.   At 75 years of age he earned his pilot’s license and flew into northern Ontario, taking supplies to outlying Native communities. At 85 he lead his band, playing the piano, singing and entertaining at the New Year’s Eve party at a big hotel in Fredericton, New Brunswick where he now lived. He had performed this gig every year for nearly a decade.

There are a hundred Tom stories. I admire him for living his life to the fullest, right to the end. His passion for life was relentless and he inspired and encouraged all who crossed his path. In that way he was and continues to be an inspiration to all who knew him to live fearlessly, love passionately and believe that all things are possible.

Key Thought: Live your life fully, with passion, love and zest!