Dennis Janson: Grateful for the life of Tom Siemers

CINCINNATI -- To the best of my knowledge he never took a shot or made a catch which impacted a game but Tom Siemers was one of the most consequential people I came to know and admire over decades covering sports in Cincinnati.

It was 1980 and the long running basketball rivalry between Xavier and the University of Dayton was being burnished to a higher gloss. Franklin Savings and Loan announced it would sponsor a traveling trophy named in honor of Musketeer Coach Jim McCafferty and his long-time Flyer’s counterpart Tom Blackburn.

It was during the course of that news conference, I made the acquaintance of Mr. Siemers. While a proud Purcell grad, it was clear his ties to Xavier were his greatest source of academic pride.

RELATED: Read Siemers' obituary

I made it a point to be there every year when he handed over the Blackburn-McCafferty trophy to the winner. It obviously gave him great satisfaction, especially when claimed by his alma mater.
 
After one such post-game ceremony Mr. Siemers, (“Please call me Tom”) offered that he appreciated our coverage and if he could ever do anything for me, I shouldn’t hesitate to ask.

I took him at his word some years later when I pondered the purchase of a new home.

It seemed to me that the opportunity had more potential upside than down but I was still reticent to pull the trigger on such an outlay without input from a banking professional.  Tom welcomed me to his office, looked at the numbers, and asked some questions about my intentions, my income and my tolerance for risk. Mechanical pencil in hand, he made a few calculations on a legal pad, paused and then offered a simple endorsement. “Denny, it looks like a nice little project. It is a good location and the price seems reasonable. I’d go with it.”

Now came the moment of truth? “Tom would Franklin loan me the money?”

His wry smile was followed by, “Denny I’d have been disappointed if you didn’t ask.”

Tom aided people from all walks of life, in every imaginable circumstance. He had a keen eye for phonies, a sharp wit with which to zing his friends – even those with other collegiate alliances (“He’s a good guy….for a Bearcat!”) – and an absolute soft spot for nuns. 

Never prone to coarse language, Tom was especially deferential to women, starting with his wife Susie and their daughters, Stephanie, Gretchen and Heidi, always comporting himself in a gentlemanly manner.

His vision for Xavier athletics is manifested by the Cintas Center, a project to which he offered financial support early on.  He also helped provide summer work and even careers for many Xavier students and not just athletes.

As for the old adage that you can judge a man by the company he keeps, that certainly held true for Tom. Among those who also sought his counsel were Pete Gillen, Dino Gaudio, Tyrone Hill and the late Skip Prosser – the latter providing the best advice I ever heard and which Tom embraced to the end: Never delay gratitude. Tom Siemers was always grateful and wasn’t shy about saying so. Grateful for his faith, his family, his country, his school, his career and his friends.

I’m eternally grateful for having known a man of such integrity and intellect. Fittingly, his family was at his side when he passed away Monday night at 80 years of age after a brief illness. My deepest personal condolences to his soul mate Susie, their daughters and sons-in-law, Barry Schmidt and Steve Bloemer, and above all Tom’s beloved grandchildren and great grandchildren.

 

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