I recently attended a funeral for a young man who I knew and with whom I was friends. During the eulogy I became uneasy, for the details of his life were being misrepresented. The eulogy seemed to gloss over his life, in fact it seemed like a one-size-fits-all eulogy for any young man taken way too soon. I don’t want this to happen to me so I’ve written this eulogy so that at my funeral, I will be represented accurately. I hope to add at least 30 more years of events before it’s read, you know, for real.
Thomas Scott Flannery was born on October 27, 1963 in Portland, Oregon. At his birth, his mother, Joyce, was pronounced dead and remained so for 20 minutes. After pleading with the Creator she was allowed to return and raise the boy, which she did quite well. Just 26 days later JFK met his Creator but did not get to come back. Tom was the youngest of the four children of Ragon and Joyce Flannery.
The Flannery family moved a year later to Southern California, specifically Inglewood, a borough of Los Angeles. Tom’s first memories included the glow of fire on the horizon and distant gunshots from the Watts riots on a sunday evening drive home from a church where his father was pastor in 1965. A year or so later the family moved to Redondo Beach where Tom witnessed a deadly small-plane crash in his front yard. Although his memory is not nearly as clear as other eyewitnesses, he would continue to have horrifying, realistic air disaster dreams about every three years. It was on the Redondo Beach pier that Tom got his first tastes of New England Clam Chowder and Teriyaki Beef.
The family moved to Anaheim, California in 1968 just before Tom entered kindergarten. Tom would remain in Anaheim for the next 21 years. He attended Benjamin Franklin Elementary School for kindergarten through 6th grade. He did quite well in elementary school and enjoyed doing well. During the summer of 1969, Tom, his older brother Tim, and Mom & Dad drove across the country. They visited Houston, New Orleans, Knoxville, Lexington, Cincinnati and back again. On this trip Tom learned to swim and blow bubbles with bubblegum.
Tom’s family lived in a house in Anaheim 1.4 miles from Disneyland and during the summertime, each evening at 9:35 pm, the ashes from the Disneyland fireworks would float into the family’s backyard. Somewhere around the 4th grade Tom bought a guitar that came with a chord book and taught himself to play in a single afternoon. In 1976 the Flannery family moved from the westside of Anaheim to the eastside. Tom finished 6th grade at Franklin Elementary but then attended South Jr. High School. Some days Tom would ride a unicycle to and from school. About this time Tom met Rob Poletti, who would be his best friend until about the mid 1990’s when their own families took priority over friends.
Tom attended Katella High School and somehow graduated in 1981. Tom did very poorly in high school. He was not motivated and there were no teachers that seemed to reach him. Tom was the singer of a popular party/cover band called Kashmir. Other than just a small handful of friends such as Rob, Erik, John, and Lou, Tom did not have many good relationships. He felt disconnected from the high school experience and did not participate in any activities including graduation ceremonies. During high school Tom enjoyed weekend trips to Rosarito, Mexico and afternoons at Newport Beach.
Immediately after high school Tom got a job at Disneyland as a Ride Operator on the Fantasyland Skyway. At the end of the summer he was hired by Walt Disney Productions in Glendale, California where he worked as a Warehouse Laborer for nine months. In 1982 Tom’s friend, Byron helped him get a job as a Dental Lab Technician, a job with which he stayed for a year and a half.
In late 1983 Tom was in personal crisis. He was unhappy living a life that did not measure up to how his parents had raised him. His recreational cocaine use was leaving him unfulfilled and he had no plans for the future. Tom decided to try college. He applied to 11 colleges and was turned down by 10. It seemed that a 1.7 GPA in high school and no SAT scores were inadequate for admission. Then a call from Chapman College changed everything. The Admissions Director happened to be brother Tim’s college roommate and granted Tom admission. His admission was contingent on Tom achieving a 3.00 GPA in his first semester. So, in February 1984 he enrolled as an undeclared major taking Volleyball, Basketball, Weight-lifting, Aerobics, Spanish, and Choir. He achieved a 4.0 GPA.
He was deeply affected by his Choir class where he spent the semester working on Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, a three-hour choral work completely in German. That summer, on a whim, Tom joined his friends Rob and Byron and went to Europe for two months. This experience is documented in his novella 1984 – My Olympic Boycott. Upon return Tom re-enrolled as a Freshman Music major. Over the next five years Tom would master Music Theory and become a fine conductor. He would graduate in 1989 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a California Teaching Credential.
In January of 1986 Tom began dating Michelle Crippen, a Freshman Soprano in the college choir. They dated and became engaged while attending college and then after graduating together, married on July 22, 1989. Tom and Michelle traveled with the choir to China in 1987, to the Soviet Union in 1989 and then on their own to Europe for a month and a half on their Honeymoon.
In late 1989 Tom began teaching High School and after his first year he hated it and quit. A wise, old man persuaded him to go to graduate school, so in the Fall of 1990 Tom enrolled at the University of California, Irvine and resumed his musical studies. Church work, scholarships and fellowships helped, but it was Michelle’s full-time work as a Nurseryman and Landscaper that allowed Tom to study Music full-time. In 1992 Tom graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree and began teaching again and loved it.
In November 1992 Tom and Michelle welcomed Dylan into the world. This experience absolutely transformed Tom. Like his mother, Tom briefly saw into the realm of the Creator and was harshly humbled and broken to tears.
In the Fall of 1993 Tom landed a teaching position at the newly built Aliso Niguel high School and taught with great success for 11 years. In the Spring of 1994, daughter Brenna was born and then in the Winter of 1998, son Macklyn.
In 1999 Tom’s father, Ragon began to deteriorate and then finally died in July from Alzheimer’s disease. This greatly affected Tom and he became very depressed. He refused treatment and hid his depression as best as he could. In Spring of 2004 Tom and Michelle first considered leaving Southern California for reasons far more clear to Tom than anyone else, including Michelle. However, seeing Tom excited about a dream for the first time in a long time and her faithful love was enough for her to leave everything behind and the family moved to Lexington, Kentucky. Once in Lexington Michelle went to Nursing school and Tom went back into teaching.
That’s where we’re at so far. Please add the following to the end of my chronological story.
Michelle was the perfect companion to Tom. He always loved how a beautiful piece of music could bring her to tears. When the world beat Tom down, Michelle would build him back up so he could go back out into it. And when the world exalted Tom, Michelle could keep him grounded, where he needed to be. They were the best of friends and shared many beautiful secrets the world will never know.
Tom’s firsthand experiences with his Creator made his faith unshakable. Tom, however was more comfortable with Agnostics and Atheists than most Christians as they seemed to eat better and seemed happier. He was also wary of restaurants with only white customers.
Tom loved his family. He loved being a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. He loved being a Flannery. He also loved Japanese food, Dachshunds, baseball, airports, seafood, Mexican food, cooking, fishing, and driving. He only disliked a couple of things such as getting slapped in the lower back, getting splashed with water, and people who vehemently defend ignorance. Okay, he really didn’t like poodles either.
Tom will always be remembered as an optimist. He believed in dreams, his own and the dreams of others. He was wonderful with language, his and the languages of others. He once described himself as: Musician, foodie, father, husband, writer, fisherman, and by the grace of God, quite possibly the luckiest man you will ever meet!