Tom Page Memorial Service

by Rob Dinerman

June 16, 2001  -Peter Briggs,in the midst of a fond and eloquent remembrance of his frequent doubles opponent, USA World Team teammate and close friend for nearly a quarter-century, soothingly proclaimed, "He is now at peace" while soberly acknowledging that, "We all know that Tommy spent what now were destined to be the last years of his life restlessly searching for whatever of life's truths were eluding him."

Palmer Page paid tribute to the powerful strides and lethal stroke production of his fallen youngest sibling while somberly lamenting the tortuous battle Tom was for many years locked in a death grip with against his most fearsome foe, namely schizophrenia, perhaps the most difficult of the major psychiatric conditions either to diagnose or to successfully treat.

The Reverend Albert Zug bravely declared to the more than 100 mourners who congregated in the merciless mid-June heat and humidity to honor one of the North American game's all-time most gifted natural athletes, that what they were attending was ultimately a celebration of an extraordinary life; but the Reverend Thomas McNutt perhaps more accurately encapsulated the occasion's prevailing mood in a lengthy and moving meditation during which, with a mixture of sadness and wonderment, he ruefully cited the emotional polar opposites that characterized a life suffused with moments of exceptional elation followed shortly thereafter by intense periods of despair, of the warmth of membership in a close-knit and talented family.combined with what the Reverend perceptively referred to as "the chill of loneliness and depression."

This dichotomy of theme permeated the entire memorial service for Thomas Earl Page, which was held on the afternoon of June 15th, some seven weeks after he collapsed and died on a lower Manhattan sidewalk at the age of only 44.

Fittingly, the service was held at the Episcopal Academy in suburban Philadelphia, where Tommy spent some of his happiest and most carefree years and where, as a budding star in the Academy's redoubtable squash program, his immense talent first emerged. It seemed fitting as well that the turn-out consisted not only of contemporaries from that innocent era but also of teachers, fans, mentors, colleagues, teammates and rivals from all over the continent(including a substantial contingent from Toronto, where Page enjoyed some of his greatest accomplishments)and covering the entire age spectrum.

What everyone present did have in common was the quality of having had their lives powerfully touched by Tommy's; many in fact had in their own way done their best to reach out to him and somehow prevent his life from spiralling out of control while there was still time to do so.

Now that the opportunity for that turnaround to happen had passed, through the intermingling of sadness, affection, rage, helplessness and regret, the one unifying and collective desire that seemed to emerge from the hymns, prayers, psalms and Bible passages that were interwoven throughout a simple but beautiful ceremony was perhaps best summarized by Peter Briggs when he gently but firmly announced that, "It is now time for us all to make our collective and communal peace with Tommy."

For the multitude of attendees who were veterans or alumni of the WPSA Pro Squash Tour on which Page made such a major impact for well over a decade, this was the second time they had had to congregate to commemorate the painfully premature passing of one of their own-twelve years earlier, almost to the day (6/11/89), the life of another vibrant WPSA star was abruptly truncated when Alex Doucas, nicknamed The Duke and Merlin because of his magical touch, toppled off his boat and drowned beneath the swift and strong currents of the St. Lawrence River, 17 days short of his twenty-fifth birthday.

Briggs finished his remembrance with a poem by Henry Scott Holland, whose primary message seemed to be that, even though one has died, his friends should think of him in the same terms and feel the same way about him as when he was living, "without the ghost of a shadow on it." The poem ends with the comforting assurance that "I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner..all is well."

This interpretation seemed to make as much sense as any other for a loyal but clearly still grieving audience, many of whose members had thrilled to the compelling exploits of a charismatic protagonist who was able to push the world champion to the absolute brink but never could conquer the enemy within, whose inner angels and demons were both on stark, overwhelming and sometimes almost simultaneous display, and who, like the Icarus figure of Greek mythology, experienced the wild exhilaration of full-fledged flight but who, also like Icarus, flew much too close to the sun.


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