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Saying goodbye to Tommy Shea, one of local journalism's greats

Date: 6/4/2012

June 4, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

The close of Tom Shea's long-running column in The Republican is the end of an era in local journalism. It will be missed by many, including myself.

Tom recently announced that he would be accepting a job at an English language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Tom is one of the most gracious and supportive people I've ever met in my professional life. He is a writer who truly cares for the written word, a reporter who connects to subjects on a very personal basis and a guy who is not bashful about being a fan of people from Bob Dylan to the Saw Doctors.

He is an avid reader and I've seen him more than once with a pile of newspapers from local weeklies to the New York Times that is clearly his regular diet.

I first heard of Tom when I was working at the first Basketball Hall of Fame back in 1970s. The public relations guy told me about a young sports reporter who impressed him. He thought I should meet him, but unfortunately I never did. I regret that.

Years later, I followed Tom's work and he was always one of the local reporters whom I admired.

I'm also going to miss Tom's wife, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, who is not only an accomplished and popular author, but is also another passionate advocate for the written word.

They also happen to be a pair of among the nicest people I've ever met.

I applaud Tom's decision to pursue "an adventure." I know it will make for a great book in the future and I'll be happy to buy it.

Thanks Tom for your 40-plus years of great work.


What is your first memory of the Connecticut River? I recall living in Hadley in 1963 through '65 and my father bought a boat so we could row over to an island in the river for a little recreation. The rule, though, was that there was no swimming in the river.

And we certainly couldn't eat any fish we caught.

Our neighbors had a powerboat and took us on trips down the river where there were sewer pipes emptying into the river.

Some people called the river "the best landscaped sewer in America." Boy, have things changed since then.

The Connecticut is much, much cleaner and that's great, but it has come at a huge cost.

Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette was in Washington D.C. last week speaking at the National Press as part of a group of mayors commenting on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. While every one wants clean and renewed natural resources, what is an issue is the continuation of unfunded mandates to municipalities.

The federal government needs to be aware that demanding that local governments find ways to accomplish certain tasks even in light of the pressures of a fragile and slow economic turnaround could be counter productive to the financial recovery.

I can see why Bissonnette and others are pushing federal officials to give cities and towns a break in coming up with the millions necessary for addition cleanup.


Did you catch the news item in the past few weeks that the Pentagon commissioned a study of studies to assess their cost? And then the Government Accountability Office conducted a study of the Pentagon study to see if it was effective?

According to ABC news, apparently the Pentagon study was determined not to be as definitive as it should have been.

Why didn't this surprise me? And if we're looking for more money with which to clean up rivers, perhaps we could postpone some of these layers of studies to do something a little more useful.

Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.