Obituary of Thomas Hennessy
Flight Lieutenant, RAF
“Per ardua ad astra”
May 31, 1922, Dublin Ireland
January 14, 2024, London, Ontario
Tom Hennessy made national news the summer of 2022. At age 100, the former World War 2 Spitfire pilot walked 100 miles to raise funds and awareness of the plight of younger, less fortunate veterans. Always generous with his time and passionate about his chosen country, Canada, he gave back to his community. With the support of our local legions and local media, Tom’s Walk of Gratitude was a great success. Ironically only 20 months later he passed away at Parkwood’s Veterans Care after a short illness caused by a failing heart.
As one of Canada’s last remaining Spitfire pilots, a member of Gold Coast 249 Squadron, he participated in the defense of Malta and then based in Italy. he flew missions to win back Europe for the Allied cause. After victory in Europe he was assigned to India where he trained to take Spitfires off aircraft carriers, as part of the strategy to overtake Singapore and then Japan. His war ended with the surrender of Japan.
Grateful for his life and restless after a 5 years of constant motion he turned down the British government offer to train fighter pilots for executive positions. Instead, he immigrated to Canada and had a wonderful life filled with family, friends, work, music and volunteer service.
He came to Ontario in 1947 with the understanding he would first be a farm labourer. After picking mushrooms, caring for livestock in railway cars, this young, charming Irishman gravitated to teaching. He was a natural leader and his life experiences fighting alongside his comrades, equipped him to become Principal of Ministry of Education summer courses in Physical Education. As a Consultant with the London Board of Education, he mentored teachers, passing along his knowledge and philosophy of movement and games. He believed in the importance of every child and for Tom there was no Most Valuable Player, every player in the game was valuable. He wanted to instill in children a sense of fun and play. Competition was secondary to cooperation, kindness and team work.
His own personal health habits of daily exercise, sensible eating, no smoking and yes, no alcohol, kept him off any medication until he was 101. His mind was clear and inquisitive. He enjoyed getting to know people, easily engaging in meaningful conversation. They appreciated his warmth and humour. He was especially fascinated by the mysteries of outer space and the discoveries of the James Webb telescope. He read voraciously evidence based journals, particularly the Monitor, an informative magazine published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, (CCPA)
At the insistence of daughter Maureen, he wrote his memoir. It’s a marvelous piece of work complete with detail that many 85 year olds might have forgotten. Starting with his childhood in Ireland, he had an amazing capacity to remember the good times, the funny stories, the ordinary that connects us all. Although he experienced the loss of so many of his friends in the war, he did not dwell on loss. He remained easy going and profoundly grateful for his life.
Singing was Tom’s outlet for his joy. His kids knew all was right with the world when they heard him singing. He was an enthusiastic tenor with The Blyth Festival Singers and rivaled John McDermot for all things Celtic.
Tom, aka Patsy Fagan, is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Joyce Hetherington and his children Maureen McKeen (Ken) of Buckhorn, Stephen Hennessy of North Bay and Kathleen McLeod of Thornbury. Tom delighted in his four grandchildren, Kaleigh McKeen, Colin McKeen (Nicole), Katie Hennessy (Andrew Gordon) and Christie Hennessy (Jeremy Lindley). Then came his great grandchildren, Tommy, Nathan, Henry, Spencer, Hannah and Lucy. The grandkids adored their Mr T, he was never grandpa. He and Joyce were present for their births and he was devoted to their well being, attended the important occasions, and entertained with his music and games. What could be more fun than sneaking up on Mr. T and knocking down what he had just built, a mountain of cardboard boxes. On Joyce’s side of the family tree, Tom enjoyed the affection of sister in law, Marian Morton (Jim), nieces Heather Van Laare (Darrell), Jennifer Harris (Jon) and nephew Andrew Morton (Rachel) .
We are so grateful that Tom’s last few months of his earthly life were spent with the competent, loving attention of the staff at Parkwood Veterans Care. Their goal was to enhance his quality of life right up to the end. On January 14, he became part of the Great Mystery of eternal life.
Although many agencies contribute to the welfare of our veterans, we are particularly grateful for the support of St Joseph’s Health Care and the Federal Ministry of Veterans Affairs. They treat our men and women with great respect.
Having fought to keep democracies safe from the tyranny of Fascism, Tom was passionate about supporting evidence based journals. He wanted to ensure that Canada continued to grow into one of the world’s strongest, most progressive and kindest democracies in the world. A country where no person is left behind. Donations in his honour can be made to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a charitable organization dedicated to progressive news, views and ideas. CCPA National Office, 141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1000, Ottawa, On, K1P 5J3/ 613-563-1341/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Online condolences can be made at www.funeraloptions.ca.
Cremation has taken place. The Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date. The family look forward to welcoming friends and all those who admired him.
“Souls are made of dawn-stuff and starshine” (Elbert Hubbard)
who we are:
Affordable Funeral Options - Cremation & Burial is focused on providing high quality service and customer satisfaction at an affordable cost.