I’m pretty sure it was a Floyd first, a Mardi Gras inspired parade from the Gardner Funeral Home into downtown Floyd to mark the passing of someone well loved. There were beads, bells and feathers, and a trumpet playing “May the Saints go Marching” in honor of Tom, who grew up in New Orleans and started the annual Mardi Gras Ball in Floyd to benefit the Blue Mountain School.
It was an unusual conclusion to a memorial service, fitting for an unusual man, who I once described as “Floyd’s version of Will Rogers meets Robin Williams, someone who rarely bites his tongue and is more often known for getting it stuck in his own cheek.” More than a few people wore Hawaiian shirts and panama hats, the most common dress of Tom, who had a Jimmy Buffet-like reputation, but was also the owner of the Republic of Floyd Emporium, the author of the Floyd Enquirer and the Floyd Dysfunctional Family Cookbook and a shrewd businessman who loved and promoted the best of Floyd.
At the memorial service there was at least one F-bomb dropped, along with prayers, song and readings, one of which was Tom’s version of the Lord’s Prayer … Yeah, though I walk through the Valley of tie-dye and tofu I shall fear no evil for though I am in Floyd, I am not of Floyd. Thy art is with me, Thy grants & Thy tax subsidies comfort me. Mine is the kingdom & glory of slackers & Hatcher Burgers …
“How many people have nicknames from Tom?” asked Blind Melon Head (Scott) Perry as a show of hands went up. Through laughter and tears Paul Lacoste cracked us up, sharing memories and reading the hand-written parental warnings on the mixed CDs that Tom made for him.
I was particularly moved by the eulogies (one of which was given by Tom’s son Edward) and the performance of the song Fly Away by Mike Mitchell, John Wilson and Emily Williamson (the artist Tom commissioned to create posters and logos for most of the products sold at The Republic of Floyd Emporium). Standin’ in the trees, I get lifted by the leaves, and carried away by the wind. Turning around, I touch the ground and then I’m drifted away again. You’ve got to fly home, Hallelujah. Fly away, fly away home … Tom’s friend/brother-in-law Emory told us that the song was sung just two weeks before at Tom’s mother’s funeral, a passing that played into Tom’s broken heart (attack), but also gave his family the gift of a week of quality Tom time.
Emory invited everyone to the reception celebration at the “Doghouse,” which also seemed fitting because Tom would be the first to admit he was familiar with being in the doghouse, both the time-out kind and the Roadhouse kind, which is really called Dogtown (and what Tom’s brother-in-law meant to say).
At the reception party, I was uplifted by many hugs and the sight of Tom’s grandson and namesake’s break out dance moves, which caused me to quip to his father, “I’ve heard the genes skip a generation. Better watch that boy.”
Watching a wall slide show of the many phases of Tom before Floyd knew him – young Tom, Prom Tom, long blonde Tom, beach boy BBQ Tom, family man Tom and more, I started to get a crush on the man. Also displayed was a Mardi Gras pimpin’ Tom, a Republic of Floyd colonel Tom and a just finished painting of Tom (pictured above) done by Tom’s good friend Greg Ward. It was appropriately titled “Elvis Has Left the Building.”
Post notes: The soundtrack to this post is HERE. It came from a CD collection of songs that Tom made for John and Emily and which John made for others at the service. Listening to it today was like hearing Tom’s own voice speak about his life through the songs he loved. More about Tom HERE.