September 21, 2016
At 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2014, Tom Bro Dude had something to say – as he was wont to do – so he took his message to Twitter.
“Like, when I die please just read my best jokes at my funeral and laugh aloud,” he typed.
In many ways, that message defined his oeuvre: Humorous thoughts marinated in a bit of morbidity. That helps explain the reaction to this weekend’s tragic news that he’d passed away.
Tom Reynolds – hilarious friend to many from Chestnut Hill (by way of Erdenheim) – was just 27. He is survived by his mother Annie, father Bob, sister Molly and girlfriend Trinity.
Those who knew the Springfield Township High School (Montgomery County) grad and former Temple University student in life and online not only mourned, but took solace in laughter while perusing his online legacy.
“Whenever somebody dies, people say that they were the greatest person ever, but Tom truly was that.” – Porter Callanan, lifelong friend
Their generous spirit has already seen more than $7,700 raised via a GoFundMe campaign to help his loved ones cover funeral expenses.
Then, on Monday night, they honored Tom’s “beef” with 6ABC – the man liked to troll local stations (and their hashtags) – by responding with the same photo of the same naked gentleman each time the station made a post.
To say this happened 500 times would probably be an understatement. In fact, it was still going on Tuesday night, and showed no signs of relenting.
A station spokesman said that “we have no comment” about that, but having observed – and participated – it obviously brought joy to many at a tough time.
It was a fitting wake for the type of guy – Tom, not naked guy – who made people laugh everywhere he went. He would’ve loved it, those who know him said.
It says here that you were once tasered by police in a Wendy's, why would you put that on your resume— Tom Bro Dude (@tombrodude) June 2, 2015
His Twitter legacy is the stuff of legend (see fan-recommended Tweets here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) But one’s life cannot, and should not, be defined by the 140-character messages left behind.
Those who knew Tom from childhood on, and by collaborating in online projects, shared stories about the kind of human being for whom finding haters is downright impossible.
Porter Callanan went to elementary school with Tom in Erdenheim, Springfield Township.
“Whenever somebody dies, people say that they were the greatest person ever, but Tom truly was that,” Callanan said. “He was the nicest, funniest, smartest dude you’ll ever meet.
"When I told my mom what happened, she said she doesn’t think you’ll ever meet someone who didn’t like Tom. She’s right. Outside of the online persona, he was just an awesome guy.”
Callanan said that people have found solace in mourning his Quaker-raised friend by reading back through his tweets over the past three days. Maybe it speaks to an irony of his persona that his real-life family didn’t know the impact he’d had on his online family.
“His sister reached out to Jacob from Twitter and said the family really didn’t know [before now] how many lives it allowed him to touch,” he said. “He left so much behind that, even though we’re incredibly sad, to go back and read those old tweets has people laughing at a difficult time.
"Looking back at his morbid, dark tweets, it’s interesting to read them now and see the perspective that he was joking, but there was some truth to it.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Mary Schultz, who initially got to know Tom via Twitter through Callanan and the “Penn State Twitter” contingent.
“The thing about Tom is how aggressively funny he was. When he wrote something, I’d be crying. There are still Tweets that I think about all the time,” said Schultz, who now lives in North Carolina. “What drew so many people to Tom was that he was so magnetic. If he fav’d or RT’d you, it would make your whole week knowing that someone who was that funny thought you were too.”
Their relationship traversed the online/real-world line as they met a few times in person.
“What made him such a good friend was that he was not only hilarious, but he was a genuinely kind person. To find someone so funny, and creative and really so good at loving people is so rare to find,” she said. “He never faked it. When he asked how you’re doing, it wasn’t a formality to him. He literally became family to me. When my sister was a freshman at Temple last fall, he was just always there for her.”
Several Twitter friends also weighed in on the friend they lost.
FanSince09 spoke about the fundraising effort and 6ABC trolling.
Of the former, he said it was “something we all thought of immediately after we got the news.”
As for the latter, well, that’s a bit more of a mystery.
“I wanted to do a tribute to Tom where everyone tweeted the naked man to someone. Originally, I was thinking a celebrity, but talking to the rest of the guys, we realized 6ABC would be perfect,” he said. “It went way better than I or anyone else expected and I think Tom would've loved it.
“The best part of the naked man pic, besides his ass, is that nobody including Tom knows who he is or where the pic came from."
He then noted that he scoured the internet for the image's lineage to a now-defunct "Walmart missed connections" site.
"I have no idea what the context is, other than that Tom was the only person to start using it. It's like he willed it into existence," he said. "The only way this gets better is if the story goes viral and someone recognizes the naked man as their dad and comes forward.”
Side note: If you recognize that naked man, please drop a line. I'm sure it'd bring much joy to Tom's fans to finally have the answer they seek.
Here’s what they had to say of the friend they lost:
"He really was too good for this world, and I'm going to miss him." – @Ironghazi
For all the somewhat gross and irreverent tweets Tom sent online, he was hands down one of the most caring people I’ve ever interacted with.
If there’s one thing I learned about Tom from [the 3 Buttsketeers], it’s that he was more than happy to share anything about his life with anyone. It’s really awesome to interact with someone like that because it makes you feel more OK with who you are.
There are very few people who I can honestly say have made me a better person just by being who they were, and Tom was one of them and I’m going to miss him a lot.
Twitter loves to hate on everything, but I challenge anyone who has had a bad word to say about Tom. Everyone loved Tom. He made everyone laugh.
The Gofundme says a lot too, because this website isn’t lined with millionaires killing time. These are people who are putting in 60-80 hours a week to have enough to live OK lives who felt they owed it to Tom’s legacy to give whatever amount they could in his name. That speaks volumes in my opinion.
Tom was one of the first people from Twitter I met in real life. I was surprised to find that behind the mostly naked goofball avatar there was a very genuine and wonderful person.
When I lived in Philly, we hung out pretty regularly and he was always good company. When I was asked to be a guest on his podcast, 3 Buttsketeers, I jumped at the opportunity.
Sitting there talking about tweets and memes brought me back to those days in Philly sitting on my couch with him, drinking scotch and watching conspiracy documentaries on Netflix.
The day I found out that Tom had passed, I sat around watching old episodes of 3 Buttsketeers and reading his tweets while cycling between laughing and sobbing.
Tom was such a genuinely funny and sympathetic person who was always interested in what you had to say. He really was too good for this world, and I'm going to miss him.
Those sentiments were echoed across the board in the weird world of Philly Twitter.
While an obituary has yet to offer funeral details, Callanan said a memorial service is scheduled from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting house.