Tom McGrath: A Man Who Gives Friendship a Good Name

By Tony Mussari

Photographs By Kitch Loftus Mussari & Sean McGrath

Copyright 2010
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

A faithful friend is the medicine of life. Apocrypha

Some friendships define who we are and why we are the way we are. If you are fortunate, you make these friendships early in life, and they stand the test of time.

When I was a teenager in the 1950’s, I met a man who left a permanent imprint on my soul.  He was our neighbor and a friend of my father.  In the springtime of my life, he
taught me things I would treasure for the rest of my life. From him I learned the gift of conversation, and the importance of values like kindness, thoughtfulness, loyalty, humor and compassion.

In the summer of my life, I watched him raise five children in the house across the street.  It was a beautiful thing to see him and his wife nurture and guide these children through the shoals of life.

In our neighborhood, doors were always open, and everyone was a member of the family.  There were no walls of contention and misunderstanding because we were bound together with common hopes and dreams.  Everyone played together, prayed together, went to school together.  In a very real way we gave one another a special feeling of community, safety and security.

Now, in the winter of my years, my friend during all the seasons of my life is about to have surgery of a complicated kind.  His faith is as strong as ever. His heart is as open as ever, and his determination is a resolute as ever.

In our conversations of yesterday, he taught me how to be a man. 

In our conversation of today, he taught me how to be a courageous and peaceful man.  His voice was weak, but the sounds of friends and family in the background did not force him to rush the conversation or distract him from what he wanted to say. His words were strong, meaningful and filled with the characteristic goodness of his giving heart.  There were no complaints, just thoughtful explanations:

“If you hang long enough with anything, you get used to it.”

“It is the little things like this telephone call that are important in life.”

“Fame and fortune don’t mean anything unless you do something for someone else.”

“Success is about compassion.”

“My legacy is my children and my grandchildren.”

“Friendships like the one I had with your dad are priceless.  It is above and beyond everything.”

Everyone should have a friend like Tom McGrath: a friend who sees the brighter side of life; a friend who sees the bigger side of life; a friend who represents the best things in life; a friend who never disappoints; a friend who always fills your heart with hope; a friend who always makes you believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

When I was a youngster, I paid attention to my father’s friend. Throughout my life he made me believe that yesterday’s dreams would become tomorrow’s reality. He did it again during our conversation with these words:

“Keep passing on to the world what you possess.”

On this tomorrow, my prayers will be for Tom McGrath and his recovery because without him in the neighborhood of my life there will be emptiness that words cannot describe.

Kevin Arnold was right:

All our young lives we search for someone to love, someone who makes us complete. We choose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope, all the while wondering if somewhere and somehow there is someone searching for us."

During my young life and during all the years that followed, I was fortunate to have the friendship and example of Tom McGrath, and that made all the difference.

In every way that matters, Tom McGrath, father, grandfather, neighbor and friend, is a Face of America on its very best days.

Please provide feedback to: