"Just a smile passing by is enough..." Tom Donohue, November 22, 1950-November 19, 2003

Those who crossed paths with Tom Donohue, proprietor of TD's CDs on Kirkwood, are now flooded with memories of his generous kindness and support of music, particularly local music. Losing Tom will be felt by all who have known him--be their acquaintanceship brief or long, in passing or intimate. No local businessperson is likely to match his subtle encouragement, his thoughtful suggestions, or his wry humor.

Neither will the community find the more overt, unconditional and non-discriminating distribution of hometown music as easy and caring. We've always marveled at Tom's tireless ability, after a long day's work, to attend performances of all calibers, at all types of venues, and profoundly appreciate every genre of music.

Knowing Tom

Tom, a regular breakfast customer, first entered my life when I met him in the late 1980s while waiting tables at the Village Deli. I remember how the waitstaff would struggle among ourselves for the opportunity to serve Tom and thereby have our morning greatly cheered by his sweetness. Now, fifteen years later, I can't possibly count the times I've been enriched by his presence at various musical experiences or in his treasure trove shop.

I'm not alone; so many people have had days and evenings brightened by a quick chat with Tom, always leaving laughing, encouraged, and inspired. Ever perceptive and respectful, Tom just seemed to intuit one's frame of mind. By sharing in a friendship with Tom, one shared in a divine community of local artists and musicians.

Tom's early experience took him to seminary school and, until now, I never really realized that he'd actually left the school as a kind of minister, albeit an entirely unconventional one. He was a minister who evangelized about music and, in doing so, touched the souls and lives of folks with his passion. Of course, his shop was a pulpit, but he also spread the word, as a disc-jockey on his Sunday-morning WFHB "World Spirit" music program.

The past few weeks have shown the community's dedication to the kind of cultural leadership that Tom embodied. In no less than six benefit concerts are hundreds of Bloomington's own musicians coming together to help Tom's family buffer the costs of his medical care.

It would be an understatement to say that the effort to organize all the concerts and shows has been intense. Community radio station WFHB works as the public's primary voice, while each show melds the creative ideas, production costs and logistics, promotion, coordination and cooperation of the venues through a legion of volunteers' tireless efforts.

Yes, the energy generated has been intense. It's also perfectly reflected the love and respect local musicians feel for Tom, giving back to him in one quick burst of energy and effort everything that he gave them over so many years.

Remembering Tom

Tom's longtime friend, Rex Miller, has been instrumental in connecting Tom's family to the spectrum of friends who reside in Bloomington. It was overwhelmingly emotional for Rex, who recalled the days when Tom's son would visit for summer vacations. And it was Rex who was able to expedite Tom's son's visit to the hospital--something so reassuring to Tom during his last weeks.

Another friend of Tom's, in the chapel at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, quietly prayed for Tom last Tuesday. She expressed her hope for Tom's well-being and health by lighting a candle honoring the Donohue family's request for prayers.

About his brother and the loss the family has experienced, Jim Donohue says, "Even though we are very sad, we are better for having known him, even though his life was cut short...No matter what has happened, Tom will always be with us. He is like that candle that will continue to burn inside each person touched by him."

Closing comments - Gregory Travis

We write often in CIVITAS of the abstract and academic issues that determine and shape the local civic and economic culture. Judging by some of the feedback we get, we tend, perhaps, to lean a little too far towards the abstract. It's a bittersweet opportunity then to be able to hold out a man like Tom as a concrete representative of all that abstract hullabaloo.

Civic-minded and intensely community-oriented, a local businessman who collected his portion of the community chest, added his own multiplier, and gave back more than his share. When the bell tolled last Wednesday, it wasn't ringing for Tom. It was ringing for us.

Here's goodbye to a good man.

Benefit Concert Listing:

  • Beatles Tribute, Saturday, November 15, Vertigo Nightclub, doors open 9pm; organized by Kenny Childers
  • Iggy Pop Tribute, Wednesday, November 19, Vertigo Nightclub, doors open 9pm; organized by Mary Williams
  • Memorial Concert, Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, Wednesday, November 26, 7pm, all-ages; organized by Rex Miller
  • Tom Waits Tribute, Friday, November 28, Vertigo Nightclub, doors open 9pm; organized by Merrie Sloan

All proceeds will go to helping offset the costs of Tom's medical care.

CIVITAS is a weekly column of civic commentary by Gregory Travis. Contact CIVITAS at