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An appreciation: Remembering ‘Papa Tom’

Lynn crossing guard Tom Reddy at his post at the corner of Chatham and Essex Streets. (File Photo | Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — He was “Papa Tom” to his wife, his six children, his 15 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, and even to people who weren’t related to him at all.

Tom Reddy exuded that type of warmth whether he was delivering mail, attending one of the countless athletic events in which his grandchildren were involved, or working as a crossing guard in East Lynn.

“He took the time to talk to people,” said his daughter, Patty Lauria.

Reddy, 81, died Tuesday at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers after a brief illness. And, Lauria said, he was person who was all-in, no matter what he did.

“If he was going to do something, he was wholeheartedly involved,” she said.

He delivered mail in Lynn for 30 years, Lauria said, and was the type of man who got to know the people on his route on more than a casual basis. She said he found out, through making his mail rounds, about the need for rocking chairs at Boston Children’s Hospital, and enlisted the aid of the letter carriers’ union to help provide them.

Reddy demonstrated that good will no matter where he went and what he did. He was a crossing guard for 20 years, and was beloved by the children and the parents he encountered.

“I remember one little girl whose mother always gave him a popsicle,” Lauria said.

But Reddy’s main sources of pride were his grandchildren, many of whom played high school sports for St. Mary’s and Lynn Classical.  

“He never missed an event,” said Lauria, whose daughter, Kristen, played basketball and son, Matt, played both football and baseball there. “He was content to sit and watch, and cheer. But he never yelled at anyone. He was there for the event, too, and not just his grandchildren. He was a fan’s fan.”

In December 2016, when the St. Mary’s football team that included Reddy’s grandson Liam, played at Gillette Stadium in the high school Super Bowl, the entire family rode to Foxborough in style: in a rented limo bus.

“That’s how we rolled,” said another daughter, Joan Kolodziej, whose children also played at Classical. “You never saw just one Reddy. You saw a herd.

“There were six of us, plus 15 grandchildren. We were all brought up in Lynn, and we still live in Lynn,” she said.

“Family was important to my mother (Ann, to whom he was married for  62 years), and to my dad. To this day, we have a large family that has stayed close. We’re involved in each other’s lives. That was him. Family first. And he passed that down to us.”

Four of Reddy’s six sons and daughters (Lynn Police Lt. Thomas Reddy, Capt. Christopher Reddy, firefighter Matthew Reddy and school teacher Kolodziej) went into some form of career public service. His other son, Michael, is very active win the St. Mary’s community and Lauria is active in the community as well.

“I think it was simply my mother and father always gave back,” Lauria said. “My father would stop and do little things if he saw a need.”

“He was also pretty observant,” she said. “He’d sit back and observe, and then if something needed to be done, he’d just do it. He wouldn’t talk about it.”

Even in death, Reddy and his family saw a need and filled it. The family has requested that donations in his memory be made to the scholarship fund in memory of Terri Maguire, who died unexpectedly earlier this summer. Her husband, Kevin, serves on the St. Mary’s board with Michael Reddy and is a close friend of Matthew Reddy.

The family is prepared to hear things about their father that even they don’t know.

“I already got one text from someone who my father coached in East Lynn Little League many years ago,” said Kolodziej. “I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more stories from a lot more people … things we never knew about.”

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