March 11, 1957 – April 20, 2023
PHOTO FROM THE PLAIN PRESS ARCHIVES
September 3, 2017: Tom Sheehan enjoys a meal at the St. John Cantius Festival.
Tom Sheehan, who served as the Plain Press advertising representative for over twenty years, passed away on April 20, 2023. Due to declining health, Tom spent the last six years in long term care facilities.
As an advertising salesperson for the Plain Press, Tom started out selling ads for the Plain Press Community Guide sometime in the early 1990s. The ads were sold only to nonprofit organizations and Tom built up contacts throughout the community. In time, Tom had many organizations and government agencies supporting the Community Guide which he built into an annual project that produced revenue that helped sustain the Plain Press. By the mid 1990s Tom Sheehan was the sole advertising salesperson for the Plain Press. His outgoing personality and persistent follow-up with advertisers kept the newspaper financially solvent for many years when advertising revenue was the newspaper’s sole source of revenue.
When traveling through the community with Tom, it seemed that he knew people everywhere. Tom’s brother Tim said, “Tom knew more people than anybody I ever knew.” Tom remembered faces and names and liked to talk to people.
Tom, who never drove a car, traveled through the Cleveland neighborhoods via Regional Transit Authority buses and rapids, on foot, or with rides from friends. Tom was a big baseball fan and would often make a trip downtown to see a game. Tom and a group of friends also enjoyed an occasional Cleveland State University basketball game.
Tom, a regular shopper at the West Side Market, knew many of the merchants and regular customers at the market. Tom was once featured in a photo of him shopping at the West Side Market in a photographic documentary by Abigail Volkmann displayed at Talkies Film and Coffee Bar on Market Street. The photo of Tom shopping at the West Side Market was later used on a post card sized promotion of the West Side Market.
In addition to the Plain Press, Tom worked for several businesses and nonprofit organizations. He also served on the boards of trustees of several organizations.
When he first arrived in Cleveland in the early 1980s, Tom stayed with his brother Tim in the Tremont neighborhood. During that period Tom did some work with Chris Warren at Tremont West Development Corporation.
Tom and his brother Tim eventually moved from Tremont to the Old Brooklyn neighborhood where Tom became a fan of Honey Hut Ice Cream. For years after leaving the Old Brooklyn neighborhood, Tom would persuade friends to take a trip to Honey Hut for ice cream.
When living in Old Brooklyn Tom would regularly take the bus down W. 25th to have breakfast at Mars Restaurant near the intersection of Clark and W. 25th where he would read the morning paper and have breakfast. From there he would get back on the bus and go to the Bookstore on W. 25th located on the block just north of the West Side Market.
Tom, an avid reader, was a regular customer at the Bookstore on W. 25th where he also began volunteering for the Plain Press which was in the back of the bookstore at that time.
Tom eventually took a job at the Bookstore on W. 25th, where he greeted people from behind the counter for many years in the 1980s and early 1990s. He worked for a while as a community organizer for Near West Neighbors in Action and began to help with Plain Press distribution and served on the Plain Press Board of Trustees in the late 1980s.
One of the residential facilities Tom worked for was West Side Community Mental Health which eventually became Bridgeway. Tom often worked the overnight shift at a group home on W. 81st and Franklin and would get rides from friends to get to work late at night and take the bus to My Friends Restaurant on Detroit and W. 117th for breakfast before going home in the morning.
When the Plain Press moved to W. 25th and Chatham in 1994 and then a few years later moved to the United Building at W. 25th and Lorain Avenue Tom Sheehan increased his involvement as advertising sales representative. While in the United Building, Tom renewed contact with the West Side Mediation Center, another tenant in the building, and was soon recruited to be on their Board of Trustees. Tom had received training as a mediator from the organization sometime in the 1980s.
Tom lived in many neighborhoods and made friends wherever he resided. In the mid 1980s, Tom moved to W. 31st Place between Woodbine and Franklin on the Near West Side. He shared a half a house with roommate Chuck Hoven – each paying $87.50 a month for rent. From there Tom could walk to his job at the Bookstore on W. 25th and a residential facility he worked at on Franklin Boulevard. Many of Tom’s friends lived nearby—including Joe Flynn and Kenny Gordon on W. 38th, the Sadlon sisters (Stephanie, Debbie, Christy and Rachelle) on Whitman Avenue, Anita Myerson and Jared Van Waggenen on Clinton and Bobbi Reichtell and Mark McDermott on W. 44th.
While on W. 31st Street, Tom met David Kukelhan, who at that time was staying across the street from Tom with the George and Stephanie Hrbek. Some years later, David Kukelhan, David’s wife Mary Weyburne and Tom became involved in a group called Celtic Ceol, which was dedicated to promoting Celtic music and culture. Tom, a lover of folk and Irish music, worked with his friends David and Mary to promote Celtic music events as members of Celtic Ceol.
After a few years on W. 31st Place, the landlord sold the house, and the new owner began to rehab the place while Tom Sheehan and his roommate Chuck Hoven and upstairs tenants Mike O’Brien and Debbie Webb were still living there.
When the rehab nearing completion, the tenants were informed that their rents soon would be tripling, so it was again time for Tom to move. He ended up living on Brevier in Tremont sharing a house with a friend and her daughter. Tom lived there for a short while until his parents helped him purchase a condo in Lakewood. Tom lived there for over a decade. When Tom married Brenda Irwin in 2005, they sold the condo and put a down payment for a house in Lakewood. Tom and Brenda, both baseball fans, invited guests at their wedding to attend a game with them after the reception.
From his new home in Lakewood, Tom continued his pattern, finding a new restaurant, The Place to Be on Warren Road, where he ate breakfast and read the paper before heading out on the bus.
Tom also spent some time housesitting for Gerry and Betty Meyer on Clinton Avenue and became fond of Frank Falafel House on W. 65th and Franklin.
Tom continued to sell ads for the Plain Press up until 2017 when he ended up in the hospital from complications from diabetes and spent the years after that in nursing facilities, contacting friends to take him out if possible. Over the past year, his health continued to deteriorate to where he found himself on a ventilator and unable to engage in his favorite past time—talking with people.
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