by Kate Berube
Thomas James Reid, local micro media mogul and beloved community leader, died this past Labor Day after a long and hard fought battle with Parkinson's Disease. He was 73.
Tom was a leading figure in the early days of the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce where he served as President and was responsible for implementing some of the town's most celebrated events. He was instrumental in the creation of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Chamber Easter Egg Hunt, and Community Expo. But he is perhaps best known for being the founder and owner of the hometown good-news newspaper, the Gazettes. Established in 1991 with the Irish Gazette, as a means to finance the new St. Patrick’s Day parade, the yearly publication has grown to service 22,000 homes over several towns and launched the monthly Bayport-Blue Point and Sayville Gazettes. Over the past 30 years, Tom has compiled stories of his hometown heroes, creating an archive of their accomplishments and leaving a tangible record of lives well lived.
As news of Tom’s passing rippled through the community, tributes from near and far began to pour in on social media. “A dear friend who helped begin my love affair with Bayport-Blue Point” wrote Lenore Ringer-Prezioso “Tom was a true servant of this community, whose sense of good made the Gazette the joy it brought to so many.” Others spoke of the lasting legacy he left “Rest In Peace Tom knowing that you made your vision of 'Two Towns, One Community' come true.” wrote Bayport Civic founder Bob Draffin. Dorothy Gillespie-Keller added “What an amazing legacy he has left, memories that certainly brought tears of joy into our lives.”
Local writers, reporters and artists, many of whom launched their careers in the pages of Tom’s paper, paused to reflect and give thanks. “Tom recognized the value in my photography and proudly featured my work in his calendars and newspapers. I wish I could thank him again for his generosity.” wrote Blue Point’s Ted Cremer. The results of the support and artistic licence he extended to so many of us, couldn’t be overstated. “Seeing my photos on the cover of the Gazette for the first time was a moment I’ll never forget.” said star BBP sports photographer Mikaela Carroll “It was an honor to always be included in such an important part of our community. Mr. Reid made that possible.”
Popular artist Timothy Butler was an early writer and photographer for the Sayville Gazette and has remained a steady contributor in both papers for over a decade. He’ll miss his long talks with Tom and the friendship they built while working together. “Tom was an asset to the communities of Bayport, Blue Point and Sayville. He always gave generous space to feature the achievements of local kids, as well as landscapes and other events like scouting. I will always be grateful for his professionalism and loyalty.” Butler went on to say, “I know his paper is in good hands, he provided a solid foundation in a time of electronic media and larger, more impersonal publications. The Gazette is truly a hometown paper and a local treasure.”
Tom Reid was neither a traditional publisher, nor did he think of himself as a journalist. He considered the Gazette a way to support local businesses while celebrating the best parts of the home he loved. And ultimately a way to look back years later, on how far we’ve come. He was first and foremost an innovator, whose ambitious visions would later become the town traditions that we could no longer imagine our lives without.
“Tom always thought of Bayport Blue Point first,” recalled longtime friend Chris Cavaughn. “The mark he left on this community has made it the special place it is,” explained Karl Auwaerter “Tom pushed us with his crazy but brilliant ideas, always willing to see it through.” To those who knew him best, his passing leaves a void seemingly impossible to fill, “Who now will fly in the face of reason?” asked Auwaerter. “Tom used to say to me ‘An idea is only as good as the person who’s going to do it.’” continued fellow business leader Seth Needleman, “He was always someone who went out and did it and he inspired us to as well. He made us better, just by being himself.”
Before he was an acclaimed publisher, Tom served in the United States Army. In the years following he returned home to Blue Point, working in printing during the day and DJ’ing through the night. It was here that he met the love of his life, Diana, who was drawn in by his musical taste and quick wit. He’d spend the next 43 years making her laugh everyday. The steady strength behind Tom’s chaotically brilliant drive, he often credited Diana with being the foundation on which he built his lasting legacy. Together they raised their daughter Gala, who grew to be the artistic center of Tom’s work.
As he settled down he launched his printing brokerage, AGC Printing which counts the school calendar and library newsletter among it’s works. Along with Gala, Tom has acted as a book publisher for countless local authors, including Gene Horton’s successful collection of regional history. A man of many hats and seemingly endless energy, Tom coached softball, volunteered with local civic organizations, and was an active member of multiple chambers of commerce. He loved vinyl records, good conversations, and the view of the Adirondack Mountains around Schroon Lake.
Whichever hat he donned, he did it with characterized joy. “I was the first winner of the Gazette’s St Patrick’s Day Parade pin contest.” wrote Toni Ann Grube. “Tom was almost as excited as I was for my win! Such a wonderful man, always with a smile.” “He always had a smile and his talent and generosity were contagious.” wrote Teresa Anne Katherine.
But most were reminded of his trademark positivity, a personal trait that was at the center of all of Tom’s many endeavors. “Tom, you will be missed by many.” expressed tech columnist Rich Vatalaro, “I greatly appreciate the opportunity you provided me in writing an article each month for what is the best local paper I have seen. There has never been a bit of negativity in it, only positive thoughts and stories just like you.”
Tom fiercely championed the best in each of us. He believed there was a story in everyone, and that that story was worth telling. He was defined by his boundless creativity, his infectious optimism, and his unwavering dedication to his home and all those who resided in it. There are few people in the surrounding community whose lives haven’t been touched, inspired, or lifted up by this remarkable man at some point.
We are all the better for it.
“Rest easy Tommy, you done good.”