I’m a photography lover. I blame 10th Grade Driver’s Ed. The class was only 1 semester and I had to pick a class for the second half of the year. I choose photography. Loved it. So, on the 3rd Friday of the month, I’ll profile a photo.
To start: my brother Thomas Michael Morrissey (1962-2008). Tommy would have been 54 years old yesterday. So to honor him, here’s a little of his story.
Born the third of four boys, Tommy always seemed to me to be full of energy. Always moving. Tommy started sports leagues when he was a young boy. He excelled at sports; primarily baseball and football. He played multiple positions – quarterback, cornerback, pitcher, first base. Particularly in football, Tommy was a star.
My mother tells me that when I was a toddler, I would stand up in the car (before car seats) to cheer and clap as we passed by the “three fields” baseball complex not far from our home. I was used to cheering on my brothers from an early age! I learned the Hail Mary (the prayer, not the pass) from mom during high school football games. Mom apparently thought the Blessed Mother was going to help the Rebels win games. They won a lot of games, so maybe She does. I learned to throw a spiral because my brother was a quarterback. It’s a requirement of all little sisters, right?
There is a large scrapbook of newspaper articles from Tommy’s time in high school sports. Photographs of Tommy at first base, stretching to catch a ball before the runner tagged the base. My parents were so incredibly proud of him.
Academics were not his thing though. After a year at Virginia Tech where he was a walk-on for Hokie football, Tommy realized that college life wasn’t going to be for him. He returned to Richmond and eventually started his own painting company.
Tommy got his perfectionism about his work from our father. He joked frequently about how he would have to fix someone else’s shoddy work; “jack-legged,” he would call it. Painting houses is highly physical as his frequent trips to the chiropractor attest. Painting ceilings ruins your neck. And the drywall dust alone would have eventually taken it’s toll on his lungs and sinuses. But Tommy was strong, lean and fit.
He also loved fishing. “The Hook” at Hatteras, NC was almost a second home. He’d pack his pick-up truck with camping and fishing gear, then head to the drive-on beach for long weekends. It was a passion and an escape. In a lot of ways, Tommy was the quintessential southern red neck.
He had no children. But after our father died, Tommy stepped up for our family. He committed himself to caring for our mother’s home. She, in turn, made sure he had good healthy meals. For a single son and a widow, the arrangement worked. Both of his dogs lived with her. I think Tommy knew they would keep her company and provide protection. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy wasn’t a saint and he had some serious struggles over the course of his life. But his love and care for mom in those years was the truest testament to his character. He overcame his weaknesses and loved his family well.
I was on vacation with my husband, kids and in-laws when I got the call. I won’t ever forget that moment. It’s a memory like the Space Shuttle Challenger or 9/11. It was while painting a home’s exterior that his ladder contacted high voltage wires nearby while he was moving it. His death wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless.
At his funeral there were family, friends and coworkers to offer their support, presence and prayers. I was most surprised by how many of his former Freeman football buddies were there. Many I remembered because my mother prepared pre-game steak dinners for the teams on Friday nights. I would go along. My job was to prepare and serve the lemonade and iced tea. These guys had stories and memories that I couldn’t have shared because they knew Tommy as a leader and teammate.
Son, brother, teammate, friend, dog lover, small business owner, fisherman. That’s a good life.