On January 28, 2022, Thomas Sousa, 58, of Winter Haven (FL) was called home to Heaven to be with his Lord and Savior.
Thom was born in Rochester (NY) on May 21, 1963, to John and Eleanor Sousa. Thom had, what many would describe as, a larger-than-life personality. He loved meeting people of all walks of life and being a part of their lives—he truly never met a stranger. Thom’s life’s dedication was to the service and mentoring of others.
In July 1985, Thom enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and performed trombone for the President’s Own Marine Band in Quantico (VA) and Okinawa, Japan. Thom played at ceremonial and public relations performances, including his niece and nephew’s swim meet. In April 1989, he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant. Thom was extremely proud to serve his country. As a veteran member, Thom was selected to perform with the Band of America’s Few in at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Halifax.
Thom began college at the prestigious Eastman School of Music (NY). He received an undergraduate degree in Foundations of Education and Music Applications from the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY). Thom also attended St. John Fisher College (NY) to complete study for his New York State K-12 teacher certification license.
In his youth, Thom performed with the Rochester Crusaders Senior Corps, and as a marching member and horn instructor for the Firebirds Junior Corps. After receiving his NYS teaching credentials, he performed with the Monroe County Music Educators Wind Ensemble, a group of music teachers from area-wide schools. Thom also performed with many local Rochester bands, such as Classified Brass, Big Roots and Nik and the Nice Guys. He performed with many well-known legends to include, Winton Marsalis, Maynard Ferguson, Gap Mangione, Jeff Tyzik, the Vic Plati Quintet, and enjoyed playing summer shows at the Ogunquit (ME) Playhouse.
Throughout his years, Thom loved providing trombone instruction to his many private students, as well as in public teaching. Several of his young students have gone on to pursue very successful careers in music. While completing a Master of Performance with the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University (OH), Tom accepted a position with the Brookfield Local Schools in the late 1990s as a middle school band instructor. In September 2000, Thom began teaching at Wayne Central School District (NY) where he was the band director and the K-12 advisor for music. He represented the district in several state and county level music education organizations.
Equally passionate was Thom’s love of animals, and always had his constant companions by his side. Woody, Stanley, Lucky and Stella were blessed to be loved by such a great human!
Thom, and then wife Suzanne, decided they wanted to live in a warmer, sunnier climate, so in 2005 they moved to St. Petersburg (FL). In May 2006, Thom began working for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay where he assisted with adoptions and provided routine care for shelter animals. In January 2007, Thom founded Red Dog Canine Concierge where he provided in-home pet care and pet health and nutrition education.
Thom will be best remembered for his dedication to serving his community. He volunteered as a member of the Baptism Team and Connections Team at Grace City Church in Lakeland (FL). He also volunteered at One More Child, a local food pantry, where he helped make lunches for children who lived in the area. A friend from Grace City Church remembers Thom as ‘someone who would always lend a helping hand or a sympathetic ear.’ He recalls stories of Thom’s work with homeless veterans, but says, ‘even if they weren’t veteran’s he would still try to buy them a lunch and just give them a little cheer for the day’.
Thom’s connection with St. Vincent DePaul CARES (FL) began long before he accepted a position with them in 2019. Thom was going through a dark season when they intersected. In Thom’s own words, “[I was] a USMC Veteran who was left legally homeless. Enter SVdP CARES and the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSWVF) program, who were there to assist when I had nowhere else to turn.” SVdP CARES made such a lasting difference in Thom’s life; he wanted to, as he said, ‘pay it forward’ to others who were struggling. Thom began working at SVdP CARES as a peer mentor and housing specialist to help homeless veterans find resources such as food and shelter. On December 27, 2021, Thom posted on a popular social media platform about how blessed he was to work for SVdP CARES. He wrote:
“WOW!!! How distracted am I to have missed my 2-year anniversary with St. Vincent DePaul CARES yesterday?!?!? On December 26, 2019, I began the incredible employment experience that I treasure so dearly. It has been 2 years of growth and discovery that have been the most satisfying of my long working life. I’m already depressed to think about the upcoming time that I will be missing. Even though I’m as busy as a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, I charge into every day ‘leaving it all on the field’. When I make a difference, lives change for the better. I truly LOVE SVdP CARES, who pulled me out of homelessness. The people I work with and far are more than just co-workers, they are dear friends… Again, I am a very blessed man <><”.
Thom also loved to sing karaoke! On any given Friday night, he could be found on stage at the Overtime Sports Bar in Clearwater (FL) belting out one of his favorite songs: “Brandy” by Looking Glass, “Your Song” by Elton John, “We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason, and a crowd favorite, “Amie” by Pure Prairie League. Around Halloween, he loved to entertain the crowd with his rendition of “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett.
Like many who grew up in Western New York, hockey was a big part of Thom’s life. He played goalie as a youth. He was also a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers football fan, and when he moved to St. Petersburg, he adopted the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning
Thom was predeceased by his parents, John and Eleanor, his sister, Karen, and his brother, Johnny.
Thom is survived by his sisters, Lori and Gail, and his brothers, Ken and Dan, many nieces and nephews, and numerous special friends he considered his extended family.
A Celebration of Life is scheduled for February 19, 2022, at 10am EST at Grace City Church, Lakeland (FL). All are invited to attend. A tentative celebration for Thom’s NY friends and family is being planned for May 2022; more details to follow.
In lieu of cards and flowers, the family suggests a donation in Thom’s memory to St. Vincent dePaul CARES, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, or Youngstown State University (please select ‘Other’ for Select Gift Designation and indicate the Dana School of Music in the Gift Details or Comments box.
St. Vincent DePaul CARES: http://www.svdptampa.org/donations.htm
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay: https://hstb.givecloud.co/product/Tribute/make-a-donation-in-tribute
Youngstown State University: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E154574&id=33