By: Summer Milsky and Sydney Lombardi
We sat at a round table and introduced ourselves to a smiling man wearing “Tom” on his name tag. We were on a field trip for our journalism class, tasked with interviewing a local senior. Unsure of what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised with how excited the folks in the room were to talk to our class. Tom was incredibly interesting and easy to talk to. We quickly learned how Tom’s early years as a child shaped his career path in more ways than he anticipated. We began to wonder how our early experiences would affect our own futures, as we too sit on the brink of career decisions.
After attending a Boston University program called the School of Public Communications, Tom Stapleton wanted to be self-employed above anything else. His passion for cars led him to open a car-washing business with a friend. This business expanded and grew for twelve years until Tom’s partner moved to Florida. They had become like a family, so close that when his friend passed away, Tom adopted his 15-year-old daughter. He welcomed her into his own family, a demonstration of his overwhelming compassion. After his car wash days ended, Tom went into the television business, inspired by his love of cartoons and his experience as a child model.
Tom’s childhood experiences and passions would go on to shape many of his later endeavors. As a boy, his favorite cartoon was about planes, an interest that he pursued later in life, eventually getting his pilot’s license. His childhood interest in television led Tom to join Wakefield Community Access Television (WCAT), where he worked for fourteen years until his retirement last year.
While he is officially retired, you can still find Tom in the building getting involved and helping his former coworkers. Tom loves WCAT because they continue to shed light on positive occurrences happening around town. He notes that WCAT veers away from politics and tragic stories and highlights the important events going on in the community.
Tom loves to stay busy, his life filled with hobbies and activities. At home, Tom likes to relax and play with his two dogs named Oscar and Otis. Tom has dabbled in skydiving, scuba diving, water skiing, and flying planes, and more recently has become interested in classic cars and watching the Bruins. He serves on many town boards including Wake Up, Friends of Lake Quannapowitt, Wakefield Alliance Against Violence, WCAT’s board of directors, and the Chamber of Commerce.
We learned from Tom that some of his closest friends growing up were people he could offer help to. He was often questioned as a teen why his closest friend had a disability. However, Tom questioned back, “Why wouldn’t you be friends with him, he’s the funniest person I know.” Tom surrounded himself with people who he felt would “keep his mind straight.” Tom enjoys it when people can come together, whether it’s the holidays with family or school trips with high school seniors and senior citizens.
As our interview wrapped up, Tom left us with some parting advice. “There are good people in this world,” he says. We learned a lot from Tom’s life, but perhaps he learned a bit from us too. Tom is confident that this “younger generation has given him hope for the years to come and he is excited to see what talents our generation will bring to this world.” Tom claimed that we have “restored” his hope for the future, something that we plan to do.