Thomas H. Polhemus

Thomas H. Polhemus
World Trade Center

Golf Before Everything

Thomas H. Polhemus, 39, of Morris Plains, N.J., had a job he liked well enough, as a computer consultant with Accenture. He had a wife, Barbara, whom he loved utterly. But he also had a grand passion.

He would do anything for Barbara and his sisters Dot and Jane, but he did everything for golf. On his honeymoon in Arizona, he dove into a jumping cholla cactus to help another golfer retrieve a ball. He played three times a week, even in rain and snow. One day, shivering with fever, hobbled by tight new blister-making golf shoes, he persevered until he beat his friends and took their money. He was riveted by televised tournaments, subscribed to three golf magazines, and made sketches of his dream retirement home, on a golf course.

With his buddies he was a teaser, a listener and as reliable as Tiger Woods's swing. He had a quiet manner that made him approachable for many who came to know one another through him.

In May at his golf club, a memorial bench with his name was dedicated at a site overlooking the 17th tee. Then, as bagpipes played, 11 friends each drove a golf ball far into the woods.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on August 25, 2002.

Tom Polhemus, 39, golf and good times

With his 40th birthday approaching, Tom Polhemus and his wife Barbara were really planning to celebrate. On the evening of Sept. 10, they visited a Morris Plains restaurant to leave a deposit for the party they planned for next month.

Mr. Polhemus, a golfing enthusiast who dreamed of joining the senior tour, was working on the 94th floor of Tower One when the first of two planes commandeered by terrorists struck the World Trade Center.

This Friday family and friends are invited to attend a service in celebration of his life at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown.

Born in Passaic, Mr. Polhemus grew up in Bridgewater. He attended Raritan Valley Community College, where he earned his associate's degree. He would have turned 40 on Nov. 17.

A computer systems analyst and programmer for Accenture, he was working at a client site in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

Barbara Polhemus said that when she got word of the first plane crash, she thought her husband was in the South Tower. "I thought maybe he had a chance. I was just waiting for a call from a hospital. But then I found out, about a day later, that he was in another office in Tower One. And then I knew. I had such hope until I heard that."

Mr. Polhemus had been assigned to the World Trade Center only a few weeks before Sept. 11. He had never commuted before and had finally adjusted to it. "He liked Manhattan," his wife said.

But as much as the Morris Plains resident enjoyed his work, his passion was golf. "He loved golf and everything about it. He was a longtime member of the Delaware Water Gap Country Club," said his wife. "He had a dream that he was going to join the senior tour when he was 50."

Together with friends, he was always organizing golf outings, whether locally or to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Florida. For the past 20 years, Joe Straczewski of Flemington was one of Mr. Polhemus' regular golfing buddies.

"He was a golfing fanatic," he said. "We played in rain, snow and sleet. I remember one time, in February, we went to a course and it started to snow. We wouldn't give up. We had to go into the clubhouse to buy colored golf balls to go on. We played 18 holes in the snow. We had a lot of fun together."

Long-time friend Richard Mayor said Mr. Polhemus had a gift for bringing people together.

"Tom was kind of quiet, but he was a magnet. People tended to gravitate toward him. He tended to relax people, (so) that they could be themselves," Mayor said. "Tom was a very upbeat person and was someone you could count on."

And of course, there was golf. "His thing was, he liked to drive the ball really far. I've seen him hit over 300 yards. I've seen him drive through a par 4," he added.

While the Polhemus were married for 41/2 years, they had actually been together 11. "He was my best friend," she said, recalling that "it took him a while to pop the question.

"He always wanted to play Pebble Beach, and we said we were going to do it for our 10th anniversary. We should have done it."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Polhemus is survived by his parents Olga and Harold Polhemus of Bridgewater and sisters Dorothy McGrath of Whitehouse and Jane Skrzyniarz of Easton, Pa.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Thomas Polhemus' memory to the American Red Cross Sept. 11 Relief Fund.

Profile by Gabriel H. Gluck published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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