Tom Tracy, always the life of the party
His attention to detail and sense of humor made him a comfort to others.
By ROBIN HINCH
The Orange County Register
March 31, 2006
There are 125 postings on the tomtracy.org Web site created in memory of a man descreibed as irreverent, generous, hilarious, devout, larger than life, a hero and a character. And more are being added each day.
Tom Tracy didn't just pass quietly through life. He made an impression on nearly everyone he met.
He owned and ran - down to the finest detail - a company that restores and remakes Ford auto parts, worked tirelessly, here and abroad, for peace in Ireland and actively supported many charities.
And he brought laughter to any situation.
He was 67 when he died March 22 of prostate cancer.
Born in Detroit, Tom was a little hellion from the get-go and was sent to a boarding school in Rhode Island. But not even the Benedictine monks could subdue his love of laughter and mischief.
He graduated from Regis University in Colorado with a degree in economics, worked in marketing and sales for Ford Motor Co. and did a stint in the National Guard before marrying Erma Jean in 1967.
The following year, Tom left Ford to open a California office of his father's business, Alma Piston Co., which in 2000 became Tracy Industries Inc. He and Erma Jean made their home in Santa Ana.
Today, located in Whittier, Tracy Industries is one of the largest suppliers and distributors of remanufactured Ford parts.
Tom defined the art of bringing whimsy and fun to the workplace while still running a highly efficient and successful business.
He knew every detail of his company dealings and signed each check that left the plant. No matter how well organized his staff thought they had things, Tom could generally find something out of order.
"Hey! What's this?" he'd ask. "How did that get there?" Nothing got past him.
At the wheel of an electric golf cart, he sped around the warehouse each day, peering genially over his glasses perched halfway down his nose, and greeting employees. He made certain he knew all 200 of them personally, asking one about a son's operation and another about a daughter's soccer game the night before.
At the same time, he was a man of many jokes and few inhibitions, debarking from a plane in Ireland, for instance, wearing a red plaid cap with a red pompon and red fake hair trailing from the sides.
He signed his high school yearbook, "Tornado Tom, the Irish Bomb," and his office answering message said, "I'm out in the factory, and if you're trying to sell something, forget it."
When one of his children brought a new date to the house, he'd befuddle the kid by asking, "So, do you believe in interdigitation before marriage?" knowing full well they hadn't a clue that it meant nothing more than holding hands.
There was no dress code at his workplace, and Tom rarely wore a tie, choosing, instead, fashion statements such as red pants with blue whales on them.
While he called himself "an American from La-la Land," he had a serious side, too. Deeply proud of, and committed to, his Irish heritage, Tom studied the cultural clashes in Ireland and donated dollars and hours – through international organizations and by sitting down and mediating between them himself in Ireland – to trying to bring peace among the sectarian factions.
Tom was a big man with a big appetite, a love of hunting (boar, deer, ram and mountain goat heads line the walls of his den) and an expansive, generous heart.
He urged his children to become highly educated so they could give back to the world with their minds and their hearts.
For a multi-tasker like Tom, the cell phone was a gift from heaven, and his was at his ear constantly, especially while he drove.
Friends and family won't soon forget his oft-uttered plea: "Hang with me, honey. I'm going under a bridge."