CHAMPAIGN — Friends and associates of Tom Harrington Sr. remember him as a likable attorney comfortable in both legal and business circles and dedicated to the establishment of a Catholic high school in Champaign-Urbana.
Mr. Harrington, 81, of Champaign died Wednesday at home after an extended illness.
"Some attorneys have a bad reputation for being forceful and obnoxious," said Jeffrey Tock, a partner in the law firm of Harrington & Tock. "That was 180 degrees opposite from Tom Harrington."
Tock, who had been in practice with Mr. Harrington since 1994, called him "an excellent businessman, very knowledgeable in tax law."
"His opinions and advice were sought by many people in the business community because of his knowledge. It was not limited to book learning — it was hands-on knowledge from the various businesses in which he was involved," Tock said. "He knew what he was talking about."
Mr. Harrington was a founding partner in Premium Brands, a local beer distributorship. Plus, he and longtime business partner George Shapland developed several subdivisions in south and southwest Champaign.
Shapland said Mr. Harrington "naturally got along with people" and had strong salesmanship qualities.
He was good at creating business structures and working with zoning, Shapland said, and he demonstrated perseverance.
"When he would get on something, he would really stick with it," Shapland said.
One of Mr. Harrington's favorite causes was the High School of St. Thomas More, the Catholic high school in Champaign that opened in the fall of 2000.
"He was Catholic and was always a major supporter of the church and the church's activities," said attorney Charles Palmer, who like Shapland was a high school friend and golfing buddy of Mr. Harrington.
"(The High School of) St. Thomas More was a really big deal to him. He worked really hard on that," Palmer said, recalling golf fundraisers for the school.
Another classmate, developer Joe Hallbeck, remembered playing basketball with Mr. Harrington at Champaign High School.
"During basketball season, we would go to get something to eat after the game," Hallbeck said.
As a Catholic, Mr. Harrington was supposed to eat fish on Fridays. But it was tough to stick to that discipline.
"I'd always say, 'You're not having a fish sandwich!" Hallbeck said. "He'd say, 'No, I forgot.' ... He didn't like fish that well."
Hallbeck called Mr. Harrington "a good, honest, lovable person."
Palmer said Mr. Harrington was captain of the high school golf team as a senior.
"When he played in the Twin City (tournament) each year in high school, I was caddy for him," Palmer said.
They continued to play golf together as they grew older.
"Until a couple years ago, when Tom couldn't play any more, four of us from the same high school class played golf every week," Palmer said, referring to himself, Shapland, Hallbeck and Mr. Harrington.
When asked how the high school chums still happened to play together, "we told people we haven't been able to make any friends since," Palmer said.
Palmer said that even during high school days, Mr. Harrington was very much an entrepreneur and salesman.
"Tom always wanted to sell something, and he always wanted to get his friends involved," Palmer said.
Another classmate, businessman Charlie Nogle, remembered that, just out of high school, Mr. Harrington sold VitaCraft pots and pans "to young school girls for their dowries."
During his college days, Mr. Harrington sold water softeners with Hallbeck.
"Tom was really good at it," Hallbeck said.
Mr. Harrington was "the type of person we need more of," Shapland said. "He was dedicated to the town, his family and the community. He was involved with Carle (Foundation's board of trustees). He was just a good citizen."