Please share your recollections of Tom’s life and what he meant to you here. They will be added to a legacy.com site the family is preparing.
I taught Tom American History when he was a Junior at St Hilda’s & St Hugh’s. He was a terrific student, and he, Alan Saly, and another classmate created a movie of immigration to the US for their term paper. I loved it! Tom was so smart, so creative and such a great guy. (fka Sr. J.)
From Carol Schindler:
It is odd not to have a call from Tom on my voicemail. We used to speak to each other often. Mostly it was about improv, creating forms together, sharing ides for forms together, bragging on our students, and figuring out how best to teach improv so that our students could excel. Talking to Tom was a constant in my life for many years. He was always there. He was always available for a conversation; no matter if he was at work or in San Francisco on a holiday, Tom was always on the other end of my cellphone with new ideas and stories. He was my friend, collaborator, and fellow improviser. We taught together, wrote together, ate together, and commiserated together about all kinds of things. I feel his loss deeply.
Tom was kind, generous, brilliant, tenacious, stubborn, funny, creative, loyal, and caring. He loved his family. He loved improv and he loved improvisers. He was driven to create. Tom performed in more shows, taught more classes, and wrote more books, shot, edited and directed more videos and films than anyone I know or have heard of. Not even Parkinson’s could stop his creative flow. His last great project was a documentary about Chicago City Limits. It was his finest work. And he and I spent many hours talking about its process, progress, and production.
Tom was a wonder. He was one of a kind. There was no one quite like Tom. He was a devoted friend. He brought people together. He was a fine writer and storyteller. He was a relentless nudge when he wanted something from you. He got people to stretch their muscles and to perform before they thought they were ready. He had faith in people’s abilities because he has such faith in his own. The world is a less interesting place without him.
It broke my heart to say goodbye to Tom. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. It was the first time that I ever saw him speechless and it broke my heart. I will love him always. Goodbye dear friend.
From Corinna Lamb:
I first met Tom in 1996 when my friend Karl Tiedemann invited me to one of Tom’s improv classes. I had never seen improv and I was dazzled by it. Tom was smart, witty and confident. I was a little in awe of him. But he was also encouraging and kind. For weeks I would go to the downtown class and just watch Karl and the others (Miriam Sirota, Leo Jenicek, Michael Bridenstine, Karen Bergreen and Matt Ostrom) perform. After a while, Tom gently asked if I would like to try improv myself. I did, and it was exhilarating and unbelievably fun. Although many of his students were young, he had one student, Bob, who was well into his seventies. Tom welcomed everyone. He emphasized the importance of saying yes – both in improv and in life. Over time, I got to see glimpses of Tom’s life outside of the class. I remember a birthday party at his apartment. His mother brought over a generous tray of pastitsio and I met his brother Peter. I remember his father sitting in the front row at the Sunday Night Improv show and laughing uproariously. I remember Tom talking about his visits to see his brother, Nick, in California. I remember dinners at diners after the shows. Tom was very generous. I told him once that Bringing Up Baby was my favorite film and he gave me a film still of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. He would lend tapes of shows to my husband. I went to many of his Sunday Night Improv shows over the years in different parts of the city. After I had twins, my life got very busy and I didn’t make it as often.We did bring our sons to the show at the end of December in 2019 and it was wonderful to see him again. I will miss Tom very much.
From Robert Smith:
For a period of time in my childhood, Tommy’s imagination helped to define my own. He is still alive with me today. There is a lot to be said about his wonderful family, his incredible home-the warm, entertaining and well-attended celebrations with all the Soters and their friends at 404. But my deepest and fondest memories of Tommy are of our early childhood. A time when it seems, in my recollection that the adults were absent. Mostly because they were. When we were maybe 4-9 years old, our moms: Effie, Irma, Bunny and Denise brought their kids to the little playground on Riverside Drive and 112st every day. They smoked and did whatever they do while we fell into our own worlds of make believe. A lot of it was driven by Tommy. We bought our GI Joe’s at Korvettes-there was Sam Rock Soter, Jim Smith and Samuel Meltzer-we added magic marker beards to make them seem more battle hardened. They had adventures as they fought the Nazis and sometimes came to untimely ends because death could happen in today’s episode. Tomorrow they would fight again. The introduction of talking GI Joes with pull strings and canned dialogue wasn’t very interesting to us because it limited their roles “Hit the dirt! and “Move out!” only get you so far. Many of those brave GI’s perished refusing to talk (ironically) as they were tortured by wood burning kits. Tommy had more to say.
We would take our GIs and other characters (Tommy had a small stuffed monkey) and play Monkey Patrol as they swung through the “Bamboo Forrest”, a small thicket on the hill above the tennis courts in Riverside Park. The city was a playground for kids our age. We hiked uptown and across the George Washington Bridge stopping to eat raw hot dogs (ugh) that Tommy packed from his fridge. I think we even made it to Palisades Amusement Park once.
Reading through our Marvel Comics we realized that the headquarters of the “bullpen” was a bus ride away at 625 Madison Ave. So we went. A group of 9 or 10 year olds on their own to meet the creators of our heroes. And we were greeted warmly. Tommy walked away with an autograph. He always acted like he was one letter or phone call away from all of his heroes-and mostly he was.
We swam at the Laskar Pool on 110st in Central Park where he was inevitably mugged for the quarter that you used for the locker. We went to day camp and sleepaway camp together. Tommy created the noise we all made when we shot our guns and threw fake punches at each other. To this day, the noise a Vampire makes is “Bloogie bloogah” (© Tom Soter). Even my handwriting owes a nod to Tom and the block lettering he used for all our comic books. Tommy started Guardian Comics modelled after Marvel. A couple of years ago, he gave me the original artwork for the Incredible Sgt. Pebble Volume 1, #2 from 1968 which he kept in a file for five decades. He sold all of the Guardian Comics to the family friends who would frequently be at the Soters amazing apartment for legendary dinners, lingering over coffee for hours. By coffee time, Tommy was having guests fill out subscription forms to be sure they never missed an issue. I think had the first home copy machine that ever existed.
In the closet of his room he saved his worn out, smelly and holey Keds marked “ol faithful 1” and “ol faithful 2” and so on…he surrounded himself with these things-he had binders of correspondence with the Daniel Boone fan club-and just forty years later he interviewed Daniel Boone himself, Fess Parker at his winery in Santa Barbara. He had mail from Earle Stanley Gardner, Patrick MacNee and Patrick McGoohan. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were hold outs (they were dead).
As I got older I became interested in other things and we grew apart. But even then, he always invited me into his imagination. Over the years I went to some of the improv shows and was reintroduced to the unique way his mind worked. I saw in those shows that he was still giving his imagination away and including other people in his games.
I’ll miss Tommy, but as I write this, I know how much of him I hold. I raise a glass in tribute and say “huzzah” (he would like that). Here is to a one of a kind guy who enriched my life.
I guess I missed the update and was still holding out hope he’d pull through. I am so saddened to see this. Many sympathies to Toms circle of friends and family.
Melinda van Arendonk
Rest In Peace Thomas Soter, prayers and strength for his family and friends
Thank you, Alan for sharing this incredible piece, please send our heartfelt condolences to the Soter family. And let us know if there is a fund and any Arrangements. Xo
– Judy Crowell Allen
Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry to hear to hear of his death. Prayers and sympathy to his family.
– Mary Powell
Oh my. Rest In Peace for sure. So sorry to hear. Thanks for sharing this
– Lesley McKillop