Thomas Owen Warfield 1946-1975|
Being from Clarksburg, WV, it was almost a given that he would go to WVU.
In 1965 and 66 the university was a place for jocks and frats. If you weren't a jock or a frat, you were probably an intellectual, artist, actor, musician, writer, poet, or a dreamer in the "underground". Tom had all of these talents and qualities. Eventually he moved into the off campus apartment shared by John Fisher, Jim Bateman, and Larry McClurg.
In 1966 Tom was a founding member of the Glass Menagerie which he named. Extremely intelligent, talented, very likeable, with a wild sense of humor, he was an accomplished classical guitarist as well as a fantastic blues man. Tom was a renaissance man good at the arts, poetry, literature, painting, sculpture in marble, plaster of paris, paper mache, music, you name it.
At the university Tom met his wife to be, an attractive blonde named Elizabeth Gerwhig (Betsy or Bep as Tom called her). In the spring of 1967 the band was to go on tour but Tom decided to stay in Morgantown with Betsy and he formed a band called Nova Express. But like so many greats and like Danny and Poe, Tom passed away much too early, while still in his 20s. His oil paintings were fantastic. He wrote prodegisly and in graphic detail. I hope history will have a chance to view Tom's work and recognize him for the genius he was. I lost track of Betsy from the 70s to the 90s. I spent years looking, calling every Gerwhig acrosss the land but no one knew her until at last I located her aunt. When I last found Betsy in 1997, she was living in Tennessee. She told me she had all of Tom's poetry, written works, and paintings. Although she intended to publish them one day, the time was not now, as Tom's mother was still alive. Publication had been delayed out of respect for his mother, as most of Tom's works were as controversial as the poster he created for the Mind Garage, with the drawing of a bare breasted woman in the middle of the group. I have since lost track of Betsy...again. Where are you Betsy Warfield Gerwhig? Betsy is still with us I think.
In my mind, in some alternate universe, that's where they both still are, happily ever after. Maybe Tom was psychic too, or maybe he was only contemplating death when he wrote this poem about his own passing. It was a prophecy come true when he died at 29. Death took him in the spring of his life, suddenly, without warning, like a thief in the night, and it blew me away. I was shocked and dumbfounded. Until that time, even with the Vietnam war going on, I had never personally know anyone who had died. Looking back, that fact is stunning to me now because I was also 29. How fortunate I had been never to have death steal someone away. Tommy, I miss you, bud.
Tom was like a brother. I was very depressed over his death. Some people said, "buck up, it should make you strong," the show must go on type of thing. I didn't agree. I was angry about the circumstances of his death. It could have been prevented. He had gone to the hospital earlier that night complaining of severe stomach pains. At his funeral members of his family told me that the hospital sent him home saying all he had was "alcoholic gastritis", but he died a few hours later of a ruptured spleen. What a horrendous mistake.
© 2005 Mind Garage