Thomas R. Shaw, Lakeland’s first Ambassador, died peacefully at home on July 18, 2022, at the age of 97.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, to Robert Ross Shaw and Mary Agatha Sites, Tom was the fourth of 5 sons. He graduated from Rosary High School and the Ohio State University, interrupted by 2 years in the Army Air Corps training as a pilot for WWII. After his discharge, he married his high school sweetheart, Inez Flynn, and together they enjoyed 57 years of marriage until Inez’s death in 2005.
Tom worked for Prudential Insurance Company, moving the family from Columbus to Neptune Beach, Florida, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky, before finally settling in Lakeland in 1974, where he retired after 32 years.
He then embarked on a lengthy period of civil service, serving on the Lakeland City Commission for 20 years, and acting as Lakeland’s mayor for one of those years. He loved Lakeland! He was a member of Rotary International and President of Lakeland Sister Cities International for many years. He served on the Tourist Development Council, Economic Development Council, and the Polk County Sports Marketing Commission, among many other causes and contributions to Lakeland and Polk County, his adopted home.
Generally acknowledged as the “father” of Lakeland Sister Cities, he was influential in building that organization and establishing sister cities for Lakeland. He made many trips to all of our sister cities: Richmond Hill, Canada, Imabari, Japan, Balti, Moldova, Portmore, Jamaica, and Chongming, China, nurturing those relationships. He believed that by creating bonds between peoples, wars could be prevented.
He gutted and rebuilt a 100-year-old building on Orange Street and created the Shaw House B & B, which he operated for almost 20 years. He loved sharing Lakeland with his guests.
He was an artist, an organic gardener, a carpenter, and a brick mason. You could find him on any one of Lakeland’s fine tennis courts well into his 80’s. He enjoyed life and believed in the goodness of people.
Tom is predeceased by his parents, his wife, Inez, and a son, Richard Ross Shaw.
He is survived by his children, Kate Shaw, Sue Shaw Drummer, Tim Shaw, Martha Shaw Garvin, Jim Shaw, George Shaw, and Barbara Shaw Reardon. They share their grief with his grandchildren, Lea Bradley, Hannah Bradley, Sarah Ramey, Molly Shaw, Meg Shaw, Tim Hendren, Patrick Garvin, Emily Garvin Badcock, Madeline Reardon, and Mariela Reardon, and 8 great grandchildren.
Funeral mass will be Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. in the St. Joseph’s Parish Hall. Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.
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