CANTON — Rest in peace, Tommy Hall.
Tommy, a Pisgah sports icon and vastly respected member of the Canton community, passed away last Thursday from cancer.
I didn’t know Tommy well. I only met him once, during an hour-long interview for a story about his life and influence. Most folks in Canton knew him far better – and far longer – than I did.
But within that short hour, it became strikingly clear why he was so widely beloved and respected.
He exuded a youthfulness – a sense of strength and nobility –that I couldn’t possibly imagine possessing if I were in his shoes. During our interview, he didn’t even mention the disease that was killing him until I asked him about it, and even then he made it clear he didn’t feel sorry for himself.
There were tearful moments during our talk, sure, but he always gathered himself and returned to the topic at hand, which for the most part, was Pisgah athletics, and the importance of family and community.
As his son, Anthony Hall, put it: Tommy didn’t see himself as a cancer patient. He saw himself as someone who was merely sick, as someone who needed to fight like hell to get better.
“It’s like he’s turned green and into the Hulk, because all he does is fight and fight and fight,” said Anthony in an email interview for the original story.
Sadly, Tommy lost that fight. And an entire community is heartbroken because of it.
But Tommy’s not gone, of course. He may no longer inhabit a physical body, but we are more than our bodies, and Tommy’s kindness and gentleness and grace will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone who crossed his path.
Perhaps it was Mikell Clark-Webb, a highly-involved member of the Pisgah community in her own right, who best summed up the collective feeling in the hours after his death.
“Heaven’s gain for sure.”
Indeed, it is.