Thomas Edward Allen, 72, of Wellsville, died Tuesday, March 29, at Jones Memorial Hospital, as a result of injuries suffered in a tragic fire at his Pine Street home. He was born March 10, 1950, in Cuba, NY, the son of the late James H. “Red” and Marie (McMahon) Allen. On July 2, 1971, he was married to his wife of 50 years, Kay Lehman, who survives.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by a son, Zachary Thomas Allen, as a result of an industrial accident in Cuba in August 1998, along with three sisters, Janine Preston, and Pamela and Catherine Allen. Survivors include his wife Kay and daughter Betsy; a beloved granddaughter, Eliza; four siblings, Annie (David) Cummins and Raymond Allen, both of Statesville, NC, Timothy Allen of Belfast and Mary Suzanne (Ron) Trail of Canisteo, along with a number of nieces, nephews and cousins.
Tom was considered a part of the Friendship Central School Class of 1968 but officially received his diploma in Wisconsin. As a young man in Friendship and Appleton, WI, Tom had an interest in agriculture and farming and was active with the FFA. His love of photography parlayed into a business in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, shooting church directories and weddings. He had a wide range of interests and will be remembered for his deep knowledge about almost any subject and his ability to recall details, facts and figures. He was an avid reader all his life, and loved reading history, travel memoirs, and studying maps. A naturally curious person, he was fascinated by geography, glaciation and watersheds. Among his favorite writers were Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac.
Tom loved driving and had an impressive sense of direction without relying on GPS navigation. “It seemed like he knew every back road to get anyplace,” said his daughter. He would take anyone to an airport at the drop of a hat – even as far as Philadelphia or New York. He made several cross-country trips by various means of transportation, including train, bus and automobile. He made several trips to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and several to Alaska to visit his daughter, bringing her several automobiles via the Alaska Marine Highway, the ferry system stretching from Bellingham, WA to the Aleutian Islands. Tom was always ready to lend assistance to a stranded motorist, stopping to give assistance or provide a ride if needed.
When Zachary was young, Tom was involved in Boy Scout Troop 733 in Wellsville and they spent cherished summers together at Camp Gorton on Waneta Lake and Camp Barton on Cayuga Lake. He had an eclectic taste in music, and took his children to many concerts, including a trip to Asheville, NC for the farewell tour of George Clinton.
His employment history was far-ranging. He was always proud of having worked at the Friendship Foundry and Jones Chemical before they closed, and at Blumenthal’s photo shop in Olean. In more recent years, as his girth expanded and white beard grew longer, he worked professionally as Santa Claus, sitting for family portraits and sometimes posing with pets. He was flown first class to Anchorage, Alaska one Christmas season when there was a shortage of Santas up north. Some of his favorite stories involved children mistaking him for Santa at any time of year. He was once “sentenced” to appear as Santa at a Police Benevolent Association party as a result of a speeding ticket he received enroute to Buffalo. Last summer, Tom and his daughter enjoyed working together at her food trailer, Bub’s Grub. Tom’s favorite job was being grandfather to Eliza, who lovingly called him “Binka.” They loved cooking together, singing, and watching old westerns on TV.
The family is planning a celebration of life at a later date. Meantime, the family asks that in Tom’s memory, “pay it forward with a good deed for someone else – no matter how small!” To leave online condolences please visit www.embserfuneralhome.com