- April 25, 2022
Thomas Blondell, a lifelong Chicagoan who served his country faithfully and loved his family as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, passed away peacefully on April 16, 2022.
Thom lived an extraordinary life. Born in Chicago on September 28, 1935, to Matthew F. and Rose Blondell and raised in a family of eleven children, Thom enlisted in the Army as a very young man. Displaying remarkable courage and ability, he rose into President Eisenhower’s security detail while still in his 20s. He then served the United States through decades of difficult and often dangerous assignments overseas, performing critical missions in Eastern Europe, South America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Thom did all this while managing his father’s Chicago real estate company and raising four children, in whom he took great pride: Thomas, MaryIlene, James, and Matthew. Thom’s life of service took a tremendous toll on his body and required constant personal sacrifice. Thom nevertheless carried on, guided by a deeply rooted sense of mission and dedication to his country.
In later years, Thom, without formal training, mastered the complex fields of commercial insurance and bankruptcy. He enjoyed a late second career as a respected expert and counselor in both areas.
For the past 28 years, Thom was a devoted companion to Sylvia Manning. In their life together, Thom’s adventurous acts of daring were largely behind him, other than conducting a remarkable citizen’s arrest of a would-be burglar at their Chicago townhouse. Thom provided constant support to Sylvia in her career and contributed to the universities where she worked, giving his time to the Newman Center for Catholic Students, engaging with veterans’ groups, supporting athletics, and cultivating donors for medical research. Wherever he went, Thom lent his unique abilities selflessly and meaningfully.
Thom enjoyed playfully teasing others and he was also quick to laugh at himself. He loved the simple pleasures of Chicago’s bakeries and restaurants. He loved the quiet of the “fort” he shared with Sylvia in Wisconsin, and the humble routines that they and their German Shepherds enjoyed there. Thom found great satisfaction in planting flowers and cultivating gardens, bringing beauty each spring to the homes he and Sylvia shared. Thom also doted on his grandchildren, spoiling them with treats and teaching them of the world he knew. For decades, Thom’s ability to travel was curtailed by various debilitating conditions, but he nevertheless made a cherished trip to Ireland with Sylvia a few years ago, from which the photo below was taken, in Limerick, where his forebears attended St. Michael’s Church.
The Navy – Merchant Marine memorial, just outside of Arlington National Cemetery, pays tribute to servicemen of all stripes. As we honor Thom and the life he led, its words of dedication are fitting:
To the Strong Souls and Ready Valor of those Men and Women of the United States who in the Navy, the Merchant Marine, and other paths of activity upon the waters of the world have given life or still offer it in the performance of heroic deeds, this monument is dedicated by a grateful people.
Thom’s family is grateful to Thom for all he gave of himself, and for all he did for others. Thom is survived by his beloved Sylvia Manning; his son Thomas R. Blondell and Thomas’s wife, Julie; his daughter MaryIlene Blondell; his son James M. Blondell and James’s wife, Sophia; his son Matthew F. Blondell; and his grandchildren Brogan, Brigitte, Estee, Anafrancesca, and Lieselle.
May Thom rest in peace. May his memory be a blessing.