Editor’s Desk: Tribute to Tom Greenaway

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN


Photo by Dan Drasin

Our friend and associate Tom Greenaway died on December 13, 2021. He was 86 years old. His landlady, Lorie Leaf, called to give me the news. She said he apparently died peacefully and quickly in his sleep from a blood clot.

He was a teammate in New Dimension for many decades. I’ve known Tommy for over 45 years and he’s been my right hand person in my work in New Dimensions for many of those years, most recently on the Board of Directors. I could say much more about him but the way I would describe him is that he was a walking angel. He impacted the lives of so, so many people with his loving kindness. He was always constructive in the way he was with people, most especially with young people. He had an air of constancy about him.

Tom had the ability to be present in the moment in the most kind and loving ways. He was the very embodiment of decency and anyone in his presence could feel it because that was who he was. With modesty, the cells of his body embodied and radiated and attitude of integrity and goodness.

For much of his adult life he volunteered with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and worked with young men who were caught in the system of law enforcement and social service. His work in this area was so superb that oftentimes judges would turn to Tom to ask for his advice in the matter before them and would often defer to his considered opinion as to the fate of these young men.

I could go on and on about him but I think the two following stories speak to his life of service.

Tom was instrumental in bringing Oil of Olay into the United States. I find that this history lays out some of his key attributes.

As a young man in his 20s, he was living in South Florida and working for a small advertising agency. He was the guy who would make copies, distribute the mail, and be a general go-pher guy.

One day Tom, being the only one in the office when everyone was out for lunch, answered the phone. It was Graham Wulff from Durban, South Africa and founder/creator of Oil of Olay. Naturally, Tom was very gracious and attentive to Mr. Wulff and passed the message of his conversation to the head of accounts.

Shortly after that call, Wulff visited the office with the idea of giving his account to this agency. This account turned out to be huge and was, no doubt, considered by the big agencies in New York to be a jewel.

Upon arriving at this South Florida Advertising Agency, Wulff specifically asked for the man he spoke to on the phone because he wanted him to be his Account Executive.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to observe the surprise by the staff at the agency at such a request. Tom was rushed into the conference room as the newly installed (only minutes before) Account Executive. He then served Oil of Olay with his extraordinary attention to detail that he had honed from his service in the Navy. For many, many years Tom was the one who kept track of and placed all the print ads for this skin care company.

This also established a long, long friendship between Tom and the Wulff’s. They sponsored his coming to South Africa for decades after he left Oil of Olay and became the manager of New Dimensions’ tapes and later MP3s distribution for personal listening. Tom would spend at least a month every year in South Africa.

He even built a house with the help of some local Zulu men with whom he developed a deep friendship.

Drawing by Tom Greenaway

Here is another story of which I had first-hand experience.

Shortly after we moved our offices from San Francisco to Ukiah, California, Tom moved up as well. Once he arrived, he started attending the local weekly City Council meetings. Every week he would sit in the same place toward the back of the room. He never said a word at any of the meetings even though an open microphone was always available. At times there would be hundreds of people showing up for a particular issue. The hall would be filled to its capacity, and, as soon as that part of the agenda was concluded, the hall would be empty once more, with only Tom sitting there quietly keeping watch. This went on for several years until Tom went into semi-retirement from New Dimensions and moved to Tennessee. We had a going away party for him, and someone from the City Council came and said that Tom’s presence, his non-judgmental listening and witnessing, had made their decisions better. Because he was there, week after week, they held themselves more accountable to the public they served.

This, for me, is a powerful statement of how our very presence can make a difference. I asked Tom what he was thinking about as he sat there week after week listening to the proceedings of city business. He told me that he was sending out silent prayers to the council for the best possible outcomes in their decisions. He did it without judgment or attachment, just beaming out love and support.

I tell these stories as an illustration of how beloved Tom was to whomever he came in contact with. It is a reminder that we don’t have to do everything, but we need to do something on a regular basis.

If you wonder what action you might take, look around you. Inhale, savor life. Check out what you are passionate about. Then exhale and take action. You don’t have to be assured of a particular outcome in order to participate. We can never really know what the results of our service will be. But whatever the outcome, do one small thing because it is the right and good thing for you to do. Do it because it makes you feel better. Do it with confidence and joy.

I considered Tom Greenaway to be my guardian angel when we walked together on this earthly plane. Now he is my guardian angel from the celestial one. Thank you Tom.



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