by Gary Wunder
On August 30, 2017, Tom Ley died after a year-long battle with cancer. A type I diabetic since his youth, Tom fought many a medical battle, always sustained by his faith in Jesus, the love of his family, and his irrepressible spirit. Just days before his death Tom took to the keyboard to write these moving words: “18,525: Being a math guy, I calculated this morning that I've lived 18,525 days as of today. That's quite a lot. The time we have each day of our lives is truly ‘life.’ Is there any more precious commodity we have than the time God gives us each day and hour? You cannot buy more of it; you cannot recycle it; you cannot borrow time from a friend; it is all completely yours to do with what you will." What does Tom say we should do with our time? "Love one another." Three short, powerful, all important words, but can any of us come up with any that are more important?
Tom's fascination with numbers is no surprise to those who know his history as a math major and later a grade school teacher of the subject. Neither is his advice to spend one's time in love a surprise to those who knew his heart and its boundless capacity to love his creator, his savior, his family, and the causes he held dear.
Tom went blind in his senior year of high school. His family was devastated: where was his future that would include a college education, a job, and a family. But Tom did not trip; he paused, evaluated his situation, went for blindness training, and started college in January rather than in August. As his siblings remarked during his service, Tom was always hopeful, and though he was the little brother, very often they looked to him for strength, wisdom, and hope. He lived what he loved in song, one poignant line from a favorite being, "The world will watch in wonder, love will make them understand."
This good man’s work in the National Federation of the Blind found him serving for a time as the national president of the Diabetes Action Network. He also served as the president of the Maryland affiliate's monthly call for diabetics and as a bridge between industry and advocates as he communicated the need for equipment blind people can use independently. He served as the longtime president of the board for the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the place where he got the blindness training that allowed him to so quickly return to school.
After teaching, Tom took a job at UPS, not only thriving in his career as evidenced by his promotions but, more importantly, influencing those with whom he worked, bringing energy, optimism, and the out-of-the-box thinking for which he was known. The relationship between UPS and the NFB has flourished in no small part due to Tom’s work, example, and his ability to motivate others to love what he loves.Tom's life and example continues in the lives of those who survive him, the closest being his immediate family: Eileen, Maria, and JonCarlos. All three of them are our family as well, and we will continue to celebrate the exceptional human being who compressed eighty years of life into the fifty years he was given.