Rich Tomey was the kind of guy that when you said Rich everyone knew who you were talking about. He did not need explaining who he was he was Rich the person who you called for help. Rich was like a surrogate father to the young friends at Jubilee House and a best friend to those who were older and had been on the streets for a long time. He understood homelessness and addiction and had untold compassion for those who suffer from it.
Rich was part of the “3 Amigos” of the early Safe Harbor days when it was held in the churches of Traverse City. Rich along with Jim Vanderley and Jeff Lewis opened and closed Safe Harbor day and night during the long Northern Michigan winters for many years. These “3 Amigos” made Safe Harbor to what it has become today. A safe haven for people in need. I don’t know if I ever said “Thank You” to the 3 of you for what you did from the love in your hearts for God’s people.
THANK YOU JIM, JEFF, AND RICH You set a high bar for all of us.
Back then there wasn’t a “Needs Coalition” or the city collaboration like now, just the outreach volunteers from the churches who depended on Rich to save the lives of those who would be in danger of freezing to death. Many of those who were on the streets had Rich’s phone number and knew that they didn’t have to ever hesitate to call him when they found themselves with a problem or in danger. Rich would drive the city’s streets at night looking in spots where he knew people were trying to stay warm or because of their addictions out of control and couldn’t help themselves.. He would always put them in his car and bring them to Safe Harbor at night or Jubilee during the day to keep them from being at risk of freezing to death (which unfortunately happened.)
I met Rich Tomey in 2006 shortly after Jubilee House opened at Grace Church. Rich was always my “go to person” if a behavior situation I couldn’t handle at Jubilee arose. I would call Rich on his cell phone and more than not he was already in the city and would get there within minutes. He had a way of talking to a person as a friend that they would listen to him until they could gain control of their emotions and anger. I knew many times he would give a person money to help them out even if it was his last dollar. I learned so much about compassion and love for the human condition of our brothers and sisters in need. Knowing Rich Tomey made me a better person.
To decompress Rich and his canoe would go to his Betsey River, ride down the lazy river loving all the nature along the way. Often if there was a person who he knew needed some “time off” from the struggles of their addiction, he would take that person on a camping/canoe time at the river knowing it would give them the strength they needed to face another day on the streets.
Rich had a deep faith and strong opinions that he never wavered from as long as I knew him. He loved our Native American heritage spiritual beliefs, he loved nature and the natural order of the world. I always remember him with his Eagles feathers in his hat and you would never know what you would find on the dashboard of his car; things like pinecones, old bee hives, rocks, etc. I
never remember Rich complaining about anything. Even when he crashed his motorcycle and had to use a walker he simply tied feathers to the handlebars and carried on.
As mother time takes its toll, as it does to all of us, Rich started to slow down some but not all together. He became the house manager of a wonderful place called Dann’s House where he could continue once again by giving of himself in his special way with his compassion and love for his fellow man.
If ever there is a God’s Angel on this earth one of their names will be Rich Tomey. When we were together and Rich was leaving, he would never say “goodbye” . Goodbye to Rich meant we would not meet again.
Instead he would hug me and say,
‘SEE YOU IN THE ROUNDY ROUND”
I WILL SEE YOU RICH TOMEY “IN THE ROUNDY ROUND.”
REST IN PEACE DEAR FRIEND,
AND FLY WITH YOUR EAGLES
Migigwetch / Thank you