Thomas P. Gorke, Sr. died on Monday, July 1 surrounded by his loving wife and children at Overlook Hospital in Summit, N.J. following an extended illness. He was 76 years old.

Tom was born in Troy, N.Y., to Frank and Imelda Tyrell Gorke. He grew up in Latham, N.Y. and attended LaSalle Institute, where he was the band major and played the trumpet, among other activities.

During his time at LaSalle, he met Ellen Casey who became his high school sweetheart and future wife.

After graduating from LaSalle, he attended Siena College where he was part of the ROTC program. He graduated in 1970 as a finance major.

Tom continued to be a loyal Saints fan and supporter and attended games in the New York metro area over the years. Tom also served as captain in the US Army Reserve Signal Corps from May 1970 to May 1979, when he was honorably discharged.

Tom and Ellen were married on September 12, 1970, at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Albany. They moved to Jersey City in 1970 to pursue their careers, and built a loving family together rooted in New Jersey. From Jersey City they moved to New Providence, then Berkeley Heights, before ultimately settling in Watchung in 1983.

He built a career in the surety bonding industry, becoming one of its foremost leaders with a reputation and network that was unparalleled. He joined Seaboard Surety Company (later St. Paul Surety) right out of college in 1970 and rose to the rank of executive vice president. He then joined Atlantic Mutual in 1999 where, based on his network and expertise, he was hired to build out a new surety business from scratch. He received numerous industry accolades and served the president of the Surety Association of America from 1998-1999.

Tom and Ellen traveled, both for work and with their family, throughout the U.S. and abroad. They discovered a mutual love for Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1980’s, where they became part-time residents of Edgartown and where they subsequently spent as much time as possible, including with their children and grandchildren.

Tom and Ellen immediately developed a tight network of friends on the Island, and Tom discovered new passions and hobbies. One of those passions was digging quahogs in Katama Bay. Anytime he was on the Island, you could find him following the tide charts to find the optimal time to wade out into the bay to dig clams, which he regularly brought back to the family to steam and enjoy.

He became part of the clamming and shellfish community on the Island, befriending “regulars” who sold clams to local markets as well as local oyster farmers.

Tom and Ellen spent decades enjoying all the Island’s beauty and community, with one regular highlight being family gatherings for a clambake and Edgartown’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks.

An avid golfer, he joined Plainfield Country Club in 1985 and subsequently served as trustee (2001-2006), vice president (2004-2006) and chair of the buildings committee (2005). He had many strong friendships at PCC, highlighted by his “Wednesday golf group” that he loved and talked about constantly, even in recent years when he wasn’t able to join them. 

He was also a member of the New Jersey Senior Golf Association and was a passionate supporter of the New Jersey Golf Association Caddie Scholarship program. He enjoyed golf around the world and proudly displayed his scorecards and other accomplishments (including two holes-in-one) with highlights always being his golf trips to Ireland and Scotland. 

Tom truly had a green thumb and invested hours in meticulous maintenance of his yards, both in Watchung and Edgartown: planting shrubs and flowers, maintaining the lawn, clearing leaves, spreading mulch, and of course energetically chasing away the deer.  

He was a true lover of life and people. Though he was known for his stoic demeanor, he also loved to have fun and was no stranger to late night mischief. He and his friends closed down a bar or two in their time, a passion Tom shared with Ellen and which they passed on to their kids. He loved to socialize and enjoyed nothing more than a good toast, a rowdy Irish bar song and a cold pint with friends and family.

He is survived by the love of his life, his wife, Ellen; his daughters Eileen Yuen (Terry) and Erin Berdan (Jeff); his son, Thomas P. Gorke, Jr. (Mia); his brothers Daniel (Deborah) and Frank Jr. (Wilameta); his stepsister MaryAnn; and his grandchildren Lila, Catherine, Claire, Megan and Maeve. 

Aside from Ellen, his gaggle of grandchildren were the other loves of his life. He enthusiastically babysat (though Ellen changed all the diapers); attended their games, graduations and countless concerts; read to and played games with them endlessly; and most importantly never stopped smiling and laughing with them.  

Visitation will be at Memorial Funeral Home, 155 South Ave., Fanwood, N.J. on Friday, July 5, from 3 to 6 p.m. His funeral mass will be held at St. Bartholomew the Apostle RC Church, Westfield Avenue, Scotch Plains, N.J. on Saturday, July 6 at 10 a.m. Interment with honors will follow at Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, N.J.