It’s weird when you miss somebody you hardly knew. I barely knew Tommy Denman, but I sure miss him.
I met Tommy at least 20 years ago as “Mr. Carolyn Denman,” the man behind Carolyn, his wife and a formidable woman super involved in the Memorial Hermann Northeast Volunteer Program.
I worked for Northeast and probably interacted with Carolyn several times a week, so I heard about Tommy, but I only saw him sporadically at special hospital events.
It wasn’t until after I retired that I got to know Tommy. By this time, Carolyn had died, I’d reverted to my journalism roots, and Tommy had to remind me of a couple of things Carolyn had insisted that I do when I retired.
By today’s political standards, we really shouldn’t have been friends. He really shouldn’t have put me on his email distribution list. I’m glad he did.
We didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye politically. He leaned that way. I leaned this way. He loved golf. I … well, golf isn’t in my retirement plan. I was the “ying” to his “yang.”
His emails certainly initiated some robust conversations when we met, usually at the Kroger in the back of Kingwood, over by the pharmacy next to all that ice cream. I could see him smile, inside and out, when I queried him about how in the world he would dare to send me THAT email.
On the other hand, I grew to respect his view, the opposite of mine. Tommy may not have realized it, but his postings and our conversations in the Kroger frozen-food section helped me better understand all those people with whom I don’t see eye to eye.
I didn’t realize Tommy was a journalism major until I read his obituary and I should have known he was a cheerleader in high school. Those qualities were obvious when we got together and when he emailed me. I didn’t know he was Mr. Brookhaven High of 1953, attended Ole Miss (I’ll forgive him for that), served in the Air Force, and spent 30 years at Shell in media and government relations.
I only knew him as Mr. Carolyn Denman (not a bad label) and a golf nut. I’m not surprised he died doing what he loved best, right there on the golf course.
I always looked forward to his emailed comments a few days after my column was published. I got some of my best column ideas from Tommy. After I wrote about the merits of vodka, he sent me and I enthusiastically used Betty White’s famous quote, “I attribute my long life to vodka and hot dogs, probably in that order.” I’m not surprised that he loved that quote.
And I still have on my “to write about list” a couple of items Tommy had suggested. I sure will miss his irreverent emails, his story and column suggestions, and our sporadic conversations in the Kroger frozen-food section.
On the other hand, he gets to spend time with Carolyn now. I know how much she depended on him.
And I’ll forever be grateful that Tommy Denman showed me that you don’t have to agree with someone in order to like them.