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Thomas Raymond Rink

Died: October 29, 1978

Thomas R. Rink came to Yale from St. Bernard High School in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Freshman year he roomed in Farnam with Foster Blair and Charles (Kim) Coit. Foster posted a story on the remembrance page of Tom’s love of cars while at Yale. Tom later roomed in Saybrook with Kim. He was a member of the Saybrook crew team, the Political Union, St. Thomas More House, the varsity wrestling team (of which he was manager), and the varsity sailing team. After Yale he graduated from Boston University Law School and returned to his home town of Bradford, PA, where he set up a private practice which is how he identified himself in our 10th Year Reunion Class Book.

Foster Blair remembers:

Tom and I were roommates freshman and sophomore year. He would get a new Plymouth Sport Fury from his car dealer father every six months. I kept telling him what he really needed was a Jag XKE. At the beginning of senior year he came looking for me, took me down to Chapel street and pointed out a brand new, E-type coupe, 4.2 liter in British Racing Green with tan leather interior. A couple months later we drove to Smith, where the girl I was seeing had arranged a blind date for Tom. I had a great time; Tom did not. Leaving Northampton at 2 a.m., Tom passed a line of about 50 cars and once on the interstate, floored it. We made it New Haven in 58 minutes, probably a record and one I hope nobody is foolish enough to try to beat.

Charles Coit remembers:

I met Tom in early September 1962, the day we matriculated at Yale. By assignment we were to be freshman roommates; by choice we roomed together for the next three.

To understand Tom’s life, it helps to know that he was from western PA (Bradford), an economically rather depressed area, where his hard working dad and uncle were successful entrepreneurs. They owned a Plymouth dealership, an auto wash, a motel as well as other businesses. Tom was first in his class at the Catholic high school. He came to Yale a devout Catholic, attending mass, and taking comfort in the familiarity of church events. What he read and saw at Yale taught him to think critically and eroded his faith in the Church. Over the four years at Yale, his views became more secular.

As an only child, his family wanted only the best for him. They were appalled at the conditions of 211 Farnam Hall, (our freshman dorm assignment) its gray walls and common bathroom. Is this what they got for paying tuition at Yale? Every year, they made sure he had a car; in 1962, it was a red Plymouth sedan (recall that freshmen were not permitted to have cars). One year, it was a dark green Jaguar XKE, the one that looks like a sausage on wheels. One evening we were headed to Northampton, at a speed appropriate for the Jaguar, when we passed a pokey Corvette. The Corvette driver took the bait and floored the accelerator. As the Corvette was gaining in the rear view mirror, we spotted a CT squad car and managed to get our speed under control as the Corvette raced by. A couple of miles down the road, the officer had him pulled over as we motored by, respectful of speed limits. Bottom line was that many weekends found us on our own crusades to foreign lands populated by the gentle sex.

Tom took full advantage of Yale. He took his classes and homework very seriously. An English major, he was always writing papers. Over the four years his world view expanded exponentially. He loved the ideas, the debates, the wonderful complexity of the world. He could have been happy on a college campus for the rest of his life. For his efforts, he got a Yale education that informed his world view, his conversation, his wit. It was a remarkable transformation of which I continue to be in awe.

Tom was at Yale for new experiences. His athletic career is a good example. In high school he lifted weights, so he was fit and muscular. When he graduated from “posture class” he took up handball, where he was quick and ambidextrous. As a sophomore he wanted something more and signed up for the wrestling team. He and the team captain were in the same class: 130 lbs. He was proud of the arduous training that included running the stairs in the gym carrying sand bags, as I recall. His opportunity to represent Yale in competition came against the national champions: Lehigh. Because the captain was injured, the coach went to the bench; there was Tom. His first and last college athletic event was against the national champions. He lasted two minutes before getting pinned, pretty good for a first and only outing! I continue to be inspired by his willingness to take risks, to search out new experiences. He took it all in stride.

My interests were sailing so when I needed crew, Tom was an easy choice. He’d never sailed before, was eager to learn, was light weight and agile, a skipper’s dream for crew. Yale Sailing was invited to compete in the Sugar Bowl, a week of sporting events concluding with the football game. We spent the week in New Orleans, eating oysters, drinking Hurricanes, and winning the sailing event by half a point on 100+ points in the event. It was the first and only regatta we won in my time at Yale; at the awards banquet, we were treated like royalty: Tom’s comment was that “Everyone loves a winner.”

On women, his observation was: “I wish I could find a woman who can handle me.” By which he meant, a woman who understood his moods and foibles and had the ability to bring him around. Not a such a bad test for life-long companionship.

After Yale Tom went on to BU law school, then back to Bradford, PA to set up a law practice. The successful entrepreneurs of his family had high expectations for him, especially with a Yale and BU education. But we know that starting a law practice in a small town where existing lawyers have locked up all the legal businesses is a tough road. Success takes years. Tom came on hard times, trying to meet family expectations. And the sad part of the story is that Tom really wanted to be an English professor, where, using his wit and insights, he would have been a Pied Piper of a professor. I am told that alcohol was another of his demons. Tom’s story is so much like the Robin Williams’ movie, Dead Poet’s Society. A talented fellow, torn between a personal calling and pressures he was unable to navigate.

His funeral was held in the Catholic Church, in Bradford, where he grew up; a dark and mysterious place where the deep faith of his family and friends was evident. It was such a different world from the one he had come to understand in New Haven. His family took me to his apartment, which was lined with shelves upon shelves of books, everyone I am sure he had read. He was a voracious reader, a true intellectual. On his wall was a print of a Monet painting of a sail boat. His family told me that Tom would remark that his best times were when he was sailing; all of life’s problems just seem to disappear.

I like to think of my friend Tom as off on an extended sailing trip. I just hope he remembers to keep the wind aft of the beam.

Smooth sailing, Tom. RIP.

Richard Snierson remembers:

Tom was the first person in our class that I met. My roommates had not arrived, so I went alone to Commons to eat. Tom was in line in front of me and saw that I was alone. He immediately introduced himself and his roommate, Foster Blair, and invited me to sit with them. It was really very nice of him.

Tom and I did not have any of the same classes, nor were we in the same activities, but when I passed him on campus from time to time over the next four years rushing between classes, he always had a big smile and a wave. Sometimes, there was time to chat for a few minutes.

I was surprised and happy when I was registering the first day at Boston University Law School that there in line in front of me was Tom Rink! We had some good times together during law school. As anyone who knew Tom knows, he was from Bradford, PA, whose claim to fame is that it is the home of the Zippo lighter factory. My girlfriend, later wife, fixed Tom up with one of her friends and they dated for quite a while. I think that they could have become very serious, but she did not want to live the rest of her life in Bradford.

About the XKE (which Foster and Charles mentioned), one wintry, weekend night, Tom rolled it when exiting the Mass Pike on a very slick cloverleaf ramp. Luckily, Tom was not hurt; but, he went back to driving a Plymouth.

I was saddened to read in the Alumni Magazine years ago about his untimely passing. The Tom I knew was a cheerful, friendly, really nice guy.