My uncle, Thomas A. Lothian, II, died on Thursday at the age of 86 in a hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was my godfather, the patriarch of my family for 70 years and a man of unquestioned integrity.
Tom was a college professor, teaching chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago for many years. He moved to Williams Bay, WI in the early 1970s and commuted from there into Chicago, many times with traders who had summer homes in the area.
He was a public servant all his life, whether a teacher, a village trustee, a county commissioner or even as a member of the Wisconsin Assembly while in his 70s. He served as a village trustee of Williams Bay in the 1970s and 80s. He was instrumental in the development of the lakefront park, a then controversial issue in the Bay. He also helped preserve a decision not to develop wetlands in the Bay as a big marina.
He later served as the county commissioner in Walworth County for Williams Bay and even served as the president of the Wisconsin County Commissioners Association. Tom then ran and won election as a member of the Wisconsin Assembly, being the oldest new member of the Assembly at that time.
In the 1970s, Tom was also a Master Mason and served as Master of Glenview Lodge #1058 two years after my father served. He was a long-time member of the Lion’s Club in Williams Bay, WI and served as its president.
He was also a sailor and served as the Commodore of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club in 1976, the 100-year anniversary of the club.
It was Tom and my aunt Carol who got me into racing C Scows. When I graduated from college, Tom retired from sailing and gave me his 1970 wood Johnson C scow, complete with a wooden mast. I loved my time racing C scows.
One of my fondest memories was overhauling that boat with the help of my father and racing it again.
Tom loved to hang out at the yacht club and served for many years on the race committee, setting up the courses, running the races and acting as a judge in the case of disputes. He and my aunt were always seemingly around when I was racing my C scow.
In addition, he was an ice-boater, something you have to do if you are a sailor in Williams Bay, the Ice Boating Center of the World.
Tom was named for his uncle, who died as a soldier in France in World War I. I am named for Tom’s father and my paternal grandfather John James Lothian. Tom became the head of the family when his father died when Tom was 15 and my father was 13.
Tom and his family were neighbors of my friend and mentor Tom Cashman. The first time Tom L. met Tom C. was when my uncle forgot to put the brake on his car and it slipped down the hill and hit Tom C.’s Ford Mustang. My uncle knocked on the door and said he had put a dent in Tom C.’s car. At 6 foot 8 inches tall, my uncle was not anyone to pick a fight with, even if he did just trash your car.
I learned so much from my uncle. He was as much of a second father to me as I could ever want. His two sons, my cousins, are more like brothers of another mother, than cousins. I was always welcome for dinner at his and my aunt’s home when I was up in Wisconsin.
He was one of those people, like my father, Tom Cashman, Tom Price and others, who made a mark on me with their wisdom, kindness, integrity and enterprise.
I was lucky to have my uncle in my life for as long as I did. I am sad to lose him from this world, but the values he passed on and the lessons he taught me will be with me until the end of my days.