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The Tom Page Memorial Service, June 15 2001

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Tom Page Memorial Service – Tom’s friends, family, opponents, colleagues
remember.

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR
TOM PAGE

By Rob Dinerman

Peter Briggs,in the midst
of a fond and eloquent remembrance of his frequent doubles opponent, USA World
Team teammate and close friend for nearly a quarter-century, soothingly proclaimed,
“He is now at peace” while soberly acknowledging that, “We all know that Tommy
spent what now were destined to be the last years of his life restlessly searching
for whatever of life’s truths were eluding him.”

Palmer Page paid tribute
to
the powerful
strides and lethal stroke production of his fallen youngest sibling

Thomas
Earl Page, 1956-2001

while somberly lamenting
the tortuous battle Tom was for many years locked in a death grip with
against his most fearsome foe, namely schizophrenia, perhaps the most
difficult of the major psychiatric conditions either to diagnose or to
successfully treat.

The Reverend Albert Zug
bravely declared to the more than 100 mourners who congregated in the merciless
mid-June heat and humidity to honor one of the North American game’s all-time
most gifted natural athletes, that what they were attending was ultimately
a celebration of an extraordinary life; but
the Reverend Thomas McNutt perhaps more accurately encapsulated the occasion’s
prevailing mood in a lengthy and moving meditation during which, with a mixture
of sadness and wonderment, he ruefully cited the emotional polar opposites
that characterized a life suffused with moments of exceptional elation followed
shortly thereafter by intense periods of despair, of the warmth of membership
in a close-knit and talented family.combined with what the Reverend perceptively
referred to as “the chill of loneliness and depression.”

This dichotomy of theme
permeated the entire memorial service for Thomas Earl Page, which was held
on the afternoon of June 15th, some seven weeks after he collapsed and died
on a lower Manhattan sidewalk at the age of only 44.

Fittingly, the service
was held at the Episcopal Academy in suburban Philadelphia, where Tommy spent
some of his happiest and most carefree years and where, as a budding star
in the Academy’s redoubtable squash program, his immense talent first emerged.
It seemed fitting as well that the turn-out consisted not only of contemporaries
from that innocent era but also of teachers, fans, mentors, colleagues, teammates
and rivals from all over the continent(including a substantial contingent
from Toronto, where Page enjoyed some of his greatest accomplishments)and
covering the entire age spectrum.

What everyone present
did have in common was the quality of having had their lives powerfully touched
by Tommy’s; many in fact had in their own way done their best to reach out
to him and somehow prevent his life from spiralling out of control while there
was still time to do so.

Now that the opportunity
for that turnaround to happen had passed, through the intermingling of sadness,
affection, rage, helplessness and regret, the one unifying and collective
desire that seemed to emerge from the hymns, prayers, psalms and Bible passages
that were interwoven throughout a simple but beautiful ceremony was perhaps
best summarized by Peter Briggs when he gently but firmly announced that,
“It is now time for us all to make our collective and communal peace with
Tommy.”

For the multitude of
attendees who were veterans or alumni of the WPSA Pro Squash Tour on which
Page made such a major impact for well over a decade, this was the second
time they had had to congregate to commemorate the painfully premature passing
of one of their own-twelve years earlier, almost to the day (6/11/89), the
life of another vibrant WPSA star was abruptly truncated when Alex Doucas,
nicknamed The Duke and Merlin because of his magical touch, toppled off his
boat and drowned beneath the swift and strong currents of the St. Lawrence
River, 17 days short of his twenty-fifth birthday.

Briggs finished his remembrance
with a poem by Henry Scott Holland, whose primary message seemed to be that,
even though one has died, his friends should think of him in the same terms
and feel the same way about him as when he was living, “without the ghost
of a shadow on it.” The poem ends with the comforting assurance that “I am
but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the
corner..all is well.”

This interpretation seemed
to make as much sense as any other for a loyal but clearly still grieving
audience, many of whose members had thrilled to the compelling exploits of
a charismatic protagonist who was able to push the world champion to the absolute
brink but never could conquer the enemy within, whose inner angels and demons
were both on stark, overwhelming and sometimes almost simultaneous display,
and who, like the Icarus figure of Greek mythology, experienced the wild exhilaration
of full-fledged flight but who, also like Icarus, flew much too close to the
sun.