Thomas James Sykes
October 25, 1953 ~ May 19, 1984
Tommy attended our 10 Year Class Reunion in 1981. Sadly, for many of us, this was the last time we would see and visit with our talented classmate..
We know that his family and close friends miss him every day.
Parents: Dr. Edwin and Elizabeth Sykes
. . ~ . .
Left: Boston around 1972 ~ Right: San Antonio around 1977
Interests and Affiliations:
Remembering Tommy ...
From Tommy's brother, Drew:
Stories from Rusty:
I have 2 favorite stories on my adventures with Tommy. As was often the case in high school I would often sneak out late at night to begin my late night time jaunts of generally harmless, but certainly mischievous behavior. Many of my partners were Bubba Groos, Graham Hall, Quinn Williams & of course Tommy Sykes, but only occasionally with Tommy since he lived in Alamo Heights while the rest of us lived in Terrell Hills. On this particular night, Tommy & I ventured up to the high school. You see I had purposely left a window unlocked, but pulled shut, at the end of one of my classes during the day. Tommy & I entered the window shortly after 2 am & spent the better part of the next 90 minutes roaming the halls & classrooms of AHHS with markers (water soluble variety) to leave our wry, rude comments on the many windows, walls, classrooms, chalkboards & ceilings, mostly anything was our canvas, knowing the next day would be a buzz of activity by the AHHS staff. Yet, lo & behold upon our arriving for school the next morning all of our efforts had been stunningly removed (much to our dismay) before the start of school, thus our plot had been foiled by the early arrival of the AHHS efficient janitorial staff.
The second event was more wild. Graham & I headed for a couple of weeks of camping in Colorado & Wyoming in my parents station wagon. We were 15-16 at the time & soon to be Juniors in high school. Tommy could not leave at the same time that we did so he would meet up with us later after taking a Grey Hound Bus & hitch hiking to Saratoga Wyoming on the N. Platte River, only to find we were not in town. We had left town to camp & fish on a friend of my parents ranch 15 miles north of town. Tommy borrowed from the owner of the local bar, an old Willy’s jeep & with directions to this 160 acre parcel on the N Platte River headed off on the Overland Trail to find us. Well, it so happened that on that day Graham & I were in the middle of the large Bolton Ranch (150,000+ acres) trying to catch snakes which would return with us to Texas. Tommy apparently got the Willy’s stuck & left a note at the 2 cabins on the property for Graham & I that basically said he had just borrowed, not stolen a chained up boat at the cabin where we were staying & alto he did not have a paddle, he did have a shovel & was going to float in the river back to town which was south of where his mishap had occurred. It was signed, “without food, maps or knowledge of the danger involved I am floating back to Saratoga, your Daniel Boone in Wyoming, T.S.” There was only one problem…..the N Platte River flowed north NOT south. Graham & I looked at several takeout spots until dark then gave up. We went back to town & slept in the back of the car, awaiting daylight to talk to the locals and/or Sheriff. Come daylight the locals did not care much about our plight, so I told Graham that I had a hunch that Tommy might cross under Interstate 80 on the river that day since he was heading north in the “borrowed boat”. The crossing was a good 40 miles north of Saratoga, so off we went. No sooner had we pulled off the Interstate & headed south on a dirt road close to the river, but around the bend came Tommy boat & all. He was cold, hungry & a little confused, but reunited with his buddies who returned the boat & continued our adventures for another week or so. The note Tommy left before he struck out on his own was hysterical & I believe my parents gave it to his parents many years later. ~ Rusty Brusenhan, September 2011
A lasting impact:
I first met Tommy Sykes in sophomore football. We hit it off as friends right off the bat. I get the feeling, however, that Tommy made friends very easily, and he seemed to know no strangers. I remember Tommy playing the line with me, and at first wondered why a smaller guy was on the line. But in football Tommy was tough. He was so quick, and alert that he could get in there and make a tackle before the ball carrier knew what hit him. Tommy played hard. He was a go-getter. He played to his fullest capacity. Later in High School, we sat next to each other in some classes. When it came to school, Tommy was a pretty serious student. Where some of us would cut up in class by talking, or goofing off, Tommy would let us know he didn't appreciate us interfering with class. I think that he was not only trying to learn as much as he could, but thought we were showing disrespect for the teacher. And he didn't care for that. He was right. Very right. Tommy was a little more mature than some of us those days, and although I didn't like it then, I respect him for it now. Tommy was normally a pretty quiet guy. That is until you started to talk to him about important issues either about the school, or the country or the politics of the times. Then he could converse with just about anyone on just about anything. He was very smart, and it was enlightening to talk with him. In some ways he was a role model for his contemporaries. He quietly went about his business in a way that you wish you could, but couldn't. And he did this with a quality that one can't help but envy. I miss Tommy Sykes, as I'm sure anyone who knew him misses him too. ~ Colin Campbell, September 2001
REMEMBERING TOMMY SYKES - by Bubba Groos
shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest
me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who
are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything
at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing,
but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding
like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight
pop and everybody goes "Awww!" Author, Jack Kerouac, On the Road
can't portray how Tommy was without mentioning the Sykes house. Things
often seem different to a guest, but I remember the Sykes house as
a nidus for ideas and discussion. Things got talked about. Opinions
and viewpoints got exchanged. People got listened to. Dr. Sykes actually
studied professional publications and findings in the evening - a
visual commitment to continued learning. Mrs. Sykes was never patronizing
about a younger person's viewpoint. Sykes offspring were all allowed
their different gifts and passions, and they had them. Con mucho gusto.
Setting: Camping next to Dove Creek near Knickerbocker, Texas. Tommy has had MS long enough to have balance problems and require
the use of a cane. We arrive and pull out sleeping bags and gear.
While I am fiddling with gear, Tommy says it's a good time for a swim,
and has plopped down on his bag and quickly peeled off all clothing,
grabbed his cane, and with a fast, unsteady gate made it to the little
crest that looks down three or four feet to a swimming hole. I'm thinking,
"Hell, I better hurry up and help him or he's bound to fall down."
Before I can get up, he's flung his cane to the ground and thrown
himself into the swimming hole below. I rush to the edge thinking,
"Oh, shit, I better get in there or he'll drown," but when
I get there he's swimming with this beautiful, unfettered style all
over the pool. He's gone to the water like a hummingbird to a bloom,
and was transformed from what was halting and unsteady to what was
fluid and graceful.
Setting: Downtown Baptist Hospital. Tommy is here because
of a minor infection; the type of inconvenience that he takes in stride.
We are turning 30, and I am not doing it well. I am feeling like I
haven't experienced enough in my years, and am telling Tommy about
having gone skydiving, and about other things I would like to do in
my thirtieth year. I have a dopey idea: "Tommy, this could be
like a project. If you want to make a list of the things that you're
curious about, I'll try to do them and report back to you." (I
am later ashamed at the goofy hubris of this notion.)
Tommy's home, in the bright large ground-floor bedroom. Tommy
has literature about Morse Code. I am bemused, and say something like,
"Oh, Morse code," hoping Tommy will fill in his dim friend.
Setting: Afternoon at Tommy's. I notice there are hundreds
of small sheets of paper affixed to the ceiling in strips starting
above Tommy's bed and extending all the way down the far wall. They
are silk-screened with different shapes and colors, one entire row
being purple plum shapes, another row being a different shape and
color. There are many shapes and many colors.
Setting: Tommy's bedroom. It is before daylight. I have
come by before work because Tommy has mentioned that it is his best
time to visit. It is cool and he is not tired. (Two things that visibly
drain his energy level are heat and fatigue.) The door is unlocked
to allow anybody to visit like this without disturbing others in the
house. I slowly open it and whisper into the dark room, "Tommy,
are you awake?"
Setting: Early morning at Tommy's. We are talking about
some favorite verses from the Bible. Concepts. (One of my favorite
verses is "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind
" Whether he knew it or not,
Tommy has always seemed to have this injunction down pat.) We also
talk about things like references to vision's transforming ability.
I am making an attempt at reading John Owen's idea of glory aloud
and it is proving to be wordy.
have a whole grab-bag of memory-glimpses of Tommy. Exuberant skipper-outers
in Johnny Clark's old Chrysler on our way to Stinky Falls with the
windows down in winter and all of us screaming along to "Happiness
is a Warm Gun." 10th grade - following Tommy to the Army Navy
Store in Austin where we purchased real white Navy bell-bottoms, with
huge bells and button down fronts - for a couple of days we had the
coolest pants in high school. Working at the Grandma's Cookie Factory
jobs he got us, trying to pack boxes with bags of cookies coming off
of a conveyor belt with "I-Love-Lucy-like" results. The
wainscoting in Tommy's extra bedroom, done entirely in cardboard Falfurias
Butter boxes - he loved the way the design looked, and yes, the people
at Falfurias agreed to send them to him.
~ Bubba Groos