Tom Gilligan ’68 passed away unexpectedly and suddenly, on September 20, 2016, in his log home in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. He is survived by his wife of forty-eight years,
Judy Cella Gilligan, and his sister, Lorraine Gilligan.
Tom was born in Oahu, Hawaii, where his father Tim was working as a mechanic at Pearl Harbor; his mother Julia had moved to Oahu to marry Tim. When Tom was two years old, the Gilligans returned to New York. They lived in Brooklyn before moving to Freeport, where Tom attended school; and played on both the football and lacrosse teams. He graduated from Freeport High School, a member of the Class of ’63 . Throughout his 71 years, Tom also lived in Alexandria, VA, Hempstead, Syosset and Fort Salonga, NY.
Tom began his college career at Nassau Community College; and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Hofstra University in 1968. Throughout his college years Tom practiced judo, participating in many meets.
Tom went on to earn a Master of Science degree from CW Post, at Long Island University, which also prepared him to be certified to teach in New York State. He did post graduate work, as well.
On December 19, 1967, he met his future wife, Judy Cella, at a dance at the Nassau Inn. His approach, as Tom called was to ask, “Let’s dance”; more effective than “Do you want to dance?”
On July 31, 1968, Tom secretly married his wife, Judy Cella Gilligan, in a civil ceremony. On December 19, 1968, a year to day they had met, Tom and Judy had a church wedding at St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church, in Syosset, NY.
Drafted in the Fall of 1968, Tom served in the Army. His basic training was at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, South Carolina. He was then stationed at Fort Belvoir, in Alexandria, VA, for a year and 7 months; where he was an instructor for CO2 and dry ice production. During this time, he and Judy lived in a private apartment off base. Tom enjoyed most weekends at the military sport parachute club; jumping out of a Huey helicopter, at Marine Core Base Quantico.
Tom was granted an early discharge from the Army when he accepted a position as a teacher aide in Nassau BOCES, on LI, NY. After one year, he secured a teaching position in the Comsewogue School District, in Port Jefferson Station, NY; where he was a science teacher at JFK Junior High for twenty-nine years. He taught mini courses based on a wide variety of subjects, including marine biology, fish, tides, weather, etc. Tom had a talent for bringing science “to life” for his students through hands-on labs. He collected live specimens on the salt marsh, in the bay and during trips on fishing boats. When mini courses were phased out, Tom taught Advanced Placement Regents Earth Science for the remainder of his teaching career.
Tom retired in June 2000. He continued to enjoy and persue his various hobbies and interests. He was an active man up until his last day on Earth. He loved hiking mountains, particularly the high peaks of northern New Hampshire. He had summited all 4000 footers in summer and again in winter, achieving one of his personal goals, becoming a member of both Four Thousand Footers Clubs. He also hiked 20,000+ foot mountains in Ecuador and Boliva, as well as high peaks in Colorado, Oregon, Washington State and northern California.
For thirty years Tom was an avid skydiver, making over 4300 jumps. As a longtime member of the Long Island Skydivers (LISD), he enjoyed jumping most weekends and Wednesdays, at Spadaro’s Airport, in East Moriches. Tom served as treasurer for LISD for a number of years.
Tom was fascinated by coal mines; and he and Judy visited many in the course of their travels. Trains and model railroading also interested Tom. Anywhere they went, they shared various train riding experiences as well as tours of coal mines. Tom once hiked the eighteen mile length of the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad, in West Virginia. He would enjoy having a model railroad train circle around the Christmas tree during his favorite holiday season.
Halloween was another of Tom’s favorite holidays. He set up large displays of Halloween collectibles, inside and outside the house.
Tom was a member of ACE, (American Coaster Enthusiasts) and NAPHA (National Amusement Park Historical Association).
He and Judy attended many of their conventions and other events. He loved collecting old amusement park related toys. For twenty years he and Judy followed the toy show circuit, mostly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Tom also belonged to the Metropolitan Postcard Club. Attending vintage postcard shows in Manhattan and York, PA brought him hours of enjoyment.
Tom’s other passions were roller coasters, bumper cars and old amusement parks. He particularly loved Coney Island. On his 60th birthday, he rode the Cyclone twenty-one times. Each of the many times that Tom and Judy visited Knoebels Grove Amusement Park, in Elysburg, PA, (their favorite), Tom would always ride the bumper cars for hours Judy enjoyed the carousel and watching Tom on the bumper cars; occasional joining in on the fun. Oh how Tom loved to bump those other cars.
Over the years, Tom built models, to scale, of The Steeplechase, an old roller coaster at Steeplechase Park in an area of Coney Island, in Brooklyn, NY. His other coaster model is Rockaway Playland’s, The Atom Smasher, featured in the 1952 film, “This is Cinerama”. Most recently, Tom was building a larger scale model of the coaster at Conneaut Lake Park, in Lake Conneaut, Pennsylvania. Tom was an avid collector of vintage roller coaster postcards. In recent years he enjoyed bidding on them on eBay.
Tom took great pride in maintaining his homes, inside and out, as well as his and Judy’s cars.
Tom was a devoted, loving husband; and a caring brother. He so loved the three cats he had during his adult life, Puss, Kiki and K-2.
Tom lived life to it’s fullest. He will be sorely missed.
Hopefully there are lots of roller coasters, bumper cars, mountains and cats in heaven.