Tom Twomey, a well-known attorney and well-respected leader of the East Hampton community, died at his home on Two Holes of Water Road on Sunday of a heart attack. He was 68.While his death was sudden and came as a shock to those who knew and loved him—“It was totally unexpected, no warning whatsoever,” his wife, Judith Hope, said on Monday—Mr. Twomey leaves behind a long legacy of activism, creativity and leadership.
The son of a New York City policeman, he fell in love with the East End at an early age, having spent summers in Mattituck with his family. He eventually settled in East Hampton in 1973, and in that year, with his original partners, opened the law firm now known as Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo LLP.
As a lawyer, Mr. Twomey put his heart and soul into every case, fueled by his passion for justice and political strategy, survivors said. In 1977, he represented the Long Island Farm Bureau in opposing a proposal by the Long Island Lighting Company to build four nuclear power plants in Jamesport. On the morning of a licensing hearing that took place at a motel on Route 24 in Riverhead, he rallied farmers to occupy the parking lot, filling it with tractors and all sorts of farm animals just an hour before the hearing was to start, creating a gridlock for all who had to pull into the lot.
It was a bold statement to make, but it was one that firm partner Steve Latham used as an example to describe “his genius.”
“It was hysterical. And, of course, it was a front-page picture … the next day,” said Mr. Latham, who had just joined the firm two weeks before the incident. “He knew what it took to drive home an issue.”
Mr. Twomey went on not only to win that case but also to receive the Farm Bureau’s Citizen of the Year Award in 2002.
Aside from his work with the law firm, Mr. Twomey played a significant role in many East Hampton organizations. Up until his death, he served as the chairman of the East Hampton Library’s board of managers, once served as the library’s president, and during his 20 years with the library helped raise $3.6 million to renovate and restore the Main Street building. He also chaired the library’s capital campaign to construct a children’s wing, a project that was completed this year.
Additionally, Mr. Twomey served as the secretary of the Guild Hall Board of Trustees in the days leading up to his death, working actively to raise money each year for the organization’s operating budget. In the past, he had served as East Hampton Town’s historian, and he edited five volumes of books on local history.
In the 1970s, he was appointed to the New York State Energy Council and the State Freshwater Wetlands Appeal Board. Mr. Twomey also was a member of the Long Island Power Authority’s board of trustees and once was chairman of the East End Economic and Environmental Task Force.
“He was involved in everything,” said Dennis Fabiszak, director of the East Hampton Library. “He was a great friend, a great leader and a great adviser. He was just a great part of the history of this library and our lives. We’re surely going to miss him.”
Mr. Twomey still found time for leisure. He often flew his single-engine plane to Nantucket, or, on the ground, drove around in his restored 1928 Flint Depot Hack. He enjoyed going to family gatherings and celebrations, and especially loved spending time with his three grandchildren, Soren Hope, 21, Isaiah Aqui, 16, and Henry Luka Hope, 5.
Ms. Hope was at home with Mr. Twomey when he suffered the fatal heart attack. In a phone interview, she spoke of her disbelief over his death, mainly because he had no history of heart trouble. She described her late husband as “the most wonderful man I ever knew in my life.” The couple would have celebrated 35 years of marriage on December 15.
A former chair of the State Democratic Committee, Ms. Hope had just gotten off the phone, before speaking to The Press, with Bill Clinton. The former president had called her to offer his condolences. “He said, ‘It always made me feel better when I saw Tom, because he always had a twinkle in his eye,’” Ms. Hope said.
Mr. Twomey also is survived by two stepchildren, Erling and Nisse Hope, and two sisters, Mary Claire Vrtodusic of Oakdale and Florence Cope of East Marion.
Visitation will be on Friday at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on James Lane in East Hampton, followed by a reception at East Hampton Point on Three Mile Harbor-Hog Creek Road. Anyone seeking more information should call Mr. Twomey’s assistant, Janice Olsen, at (631) 727-2180.