My father, Richard Tom was reluctant to talk about his life, as were most Chinese of his generation. He passed away in March 1998. Fortunately, the art he left behind continues to give us new insight into his thoughts and the unspoken gifts he gave us throughout his life.
CYNTHIA TOM PAINTINGS
In the mid-1950s, he moved my mother and my older brother out of San Francisco Chinatown. Because of the racial climate at the time, this was a rebellious and risky move for Chinese Americans. He chose a rather bohemian neighborhood and our family happily remained there until my parents sold their house in 1995.
My father was always the guy with the the garage door open making art. He enjoyed chatting with the neighbors who stopped by.
When he passed away in 1998, our friends from the old neighborhood all turned out for the "farewell" party for Richard. He was a charming man, something I learned through friends and mutual acquaintances
He never said very much to us. We got to know him better during the last two weeks of his life than all our years together. I am grateful that we had that time.
The last two weeks of his life provided me with absolute clarity about his essence. It all came down to art, music and humor, once you stripped away everything else, his pure essence was enlightening. He wanted to see my paintings, listen to his stride jazz piano music, Fats Waller and maintained his dry sense of humor 'til end. That lightened the load for the nurses and was a tremendous source of comfort for us.