Leonard Thom – A Real-Life Hero
Leonard Thom was no mere figure of myth in this world of historians who enjoy discrediting heroes; rather he made an impactful difference to many lives around him.
His name may not mean much to many today, but those who knew him will never forget his lively spirit and zest for living.
Early Life and Education
Leonard Jay “Lenny” Thom was raised in Sandusky, Ohio. Upon graduation he attended Heidelberg College and Ohio State University before enlisting in the Navy and being accepted into an accelerated officer program for patrol torpedo boat training. While in Rhode Island for this training he met Jack Kennedy.
Thom and Kennedy became fast friends, regularly writing to one another. Kennedy would later join PT-109 while Thom served as his executive officer; when their vessel was destroyed by an enemy destroyer in South Pacific waters, Thom used detailed notes and local people to convey Kennedy’s message back to a nearby base.
Thom’s percussion books and instructional videos are widely utilized in schools and colleges nationwide. Additionally, he founded the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps.
Leonard is widely respected for his profound knowledge of cross-cultural topics and emotional intelligence, utilizing artistic skills to effect real change in organizations and universities alike. Through Consciously Exposed Consulting, Leonard works on initiatives designed to increase cultural diversity, equity and inclusion within society.
Lenny Thom met Joe Atkinson while attending the PT Boat Squadron Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island and they quickly formed an unbreakable bond through shared experiences.
Leonard, a first-team Hockey East All-Star, led UMass with 37 points across 23 league games last season and led in goals per game as well. Additionally, she tied for first in game-winning goals and was one of three players with multiple hat tricks.
Achievement and Honors
Thom was an outstanding swimmer as well as football player at Sandusky High School and Heidelberg College, swimming between islands trying to flag down another PT boat after his own was hit in 1943.
Press coverage praised him as a hero, earning the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Purple Heart Award and Gold Star Award – in addition to receiving an honorary doctorate from Ohio State University.
Thom was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown with an unassuming, straightforward gravestone that features flush-to-the-ground marble markers surrounded by upright markers bearing his daughter Christine’s name (who died in 2000). Some local residents remember him, while for most he remains just another footnote in history – yet his life deserves so much more recognition.
Leonard Thom left an indelible mark on those he met, whether as Executive Officer of PT-109 or as an associate and friend of JFK. Lenny left his mark; a large man with an infectious energy who never let anything get in his way.
He was an acclaimed football player at Sandusky High School and Heidelberg College before going on to Ohio State University, where he served as guard and president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Additionally, he briefly dabbled in semi-pro football in Columbus.
At Oregon State, he met Kate Holway and they quickly fell in love, yet world events prevented their dream wedding day from materializing. Instead, the couple had two children, one of which is now practicing law.
Thom has appeared in over 70 movies and TV series, such as The American President and Congo. With his trademark bald head and brown eyes, standing 6ft 1ins tall. Additionally he serves as a spokesperson for The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust against PETA.
He is an animal advocate and owns both cats and dogs as pets. He believes animals should live free in nature rather than cages.
Lenny Thom may not be widely recognized, but this former executive officer of PT-109 and JFK’s friend and right-hand man deserves more remembrance. A true hero who left us too soon; his legacy will continue to influence future generations.