Aug 122013

Orphan, high school dropout, soldier, union man, artist, great-grandfather turns 95

NoC World News

Portrait of the artist as an old man. Photo by Julie Mayer.

Portrait of the artist as an old man. Photo by Julie Mayer.

This August, Thomas Joseph Tom Lazare will celebrate his 95th birthday. Born unto the town of Darby, Pennsylvania, a poor suburb of South Philly, Tom was orphaned at the age of eleven after his neer do well father, a French Jew, skipped town when he was two and, nearly a decade later, his mother, Agnes, a sickly Catholic woman who had raised Tom by helping run a boarding house in an undesirable Delaware County neighbourhood, died of tuberculosis.

He was adopted by the O’Donnell family, a sprawling Irish Catholic clan of marginally employed elevator-lift operators who, even at the heights of the Roaring Twenties, were experiencing hard times. After struggling his way through a rigid Catholic school education, Tom dropped out of school after the eighth grade to take a full-time job. What had begun as a way to support his budding interest in tobacco had grown by age fifteen into full-time work, the salary at times supporting, along with his tobacco habit, the entire unemployed ODonnell family. Continue reading »