Tom Hennessy, center, next to Rich Archbold (L) and Justin Rudd (R). Photo courtesy of Justin Rudd.
Longtime Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist and community stalwart Tom Hennessy died Saturday of heart complications, triggering a collective mourning on behalf of community members and leaders.
Long Beach readers were first introduced to Hennessy in 1980, following a stint working for the Detroit Free Press as its sports editor. He entertained readers for years and used his own personal experiences to write columns both serious and humorous, according to the Press-Telegram’s Editor Emeritus Rich Archbold.
“Perhaps his most significant accomplishment was shining a light on mental illness,” wrote Archbold in a post today. “He wrote movingly about his son, Daniel, who committed suicide in 2005. In a special series, ‘Suicide: Out of the Darkness,’ Tom wrote about his son and others.”
Hennessy was also known for his fundraising and active involvement in the community, as Long Beach leaders noted.
“Tom was known to be kind and generous in his personal affairs and also raised money for charity, including veterans, impoverished kids, mental health, and environmental causes,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “You might disagree with what he wrote, but you’d never doubt the sincerity of his intentions and his caring for his country and community.”
Born in New Jersey in 1936 and educated at the United States Army Language School in Monterey, Hennessy worked multiple jobs (including one as a Russian translator for the U.S. Army Security Agency, according to the Press-Telegram), before succumbing to his passion for journalism.
He won over leaders both near and far with his wit and passion for sports, politics and life.
“I am incredibly saddened by the loss of my longtime friend Tom ‘Mr. Long Beach’ Hennessey,” said County Supervisor Don Knabe in a statement. “Tom was synonymous with the city, crafting funny and amusing columns about local culture and the community. In the aftermath of the Cerritos Air Crash, a major disagreement between Tom and I helped launch an incredible friendship that lasted 30 years.”
Knabe went on to openly admire Hennessy’s passion for the University of Notre Dame and the Long Beach community at large.
“He was the biggest Notre Dame fan I knew, and each year we would make a friendly wager on the results of the Notre Dame-USC football game with the loser wearing the winning team's gear,” wrote Knabe. “Tom's legacy isn't just defined by his career at the Press-Telegram; he was a champion for many charitable causes that support our region’s most vulnerable, including veterans and young people. Tom's passing is a huge loss for Long Beach and I will truly miss my brother and Fighting Irish friend.”
Garcia said this week's Long Beach City Council meeting will adjourn in honor of Hennessy.
"We are all lucky to have been able to read his wise words over the years and our whole city will miss his voice," said Garcia.
Hennessy is survived by his wife, Debbie, former wife Jeanne Hennessy, brother Bud Hennessy, son John Tien, daughters, Jackie Tien, Patty Tomashefsky, Diana Rousseau, six grandsons and four granddaughters, according to the Press-Telegram. A public memorial service will occur, with details to come.