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He Is 81 And On A Victory Lap

March 16, 2024 4 min read 5 Comments

He Is 81 And On A Victory Lap

Tom Lough, 81, at his keyboard. He became a screenwriter at 78 and learned to score music for his project "Go For The Five." Meanwhile, Lough, an Olympian in 1968, runs the 1500 this weekend in The Texas Senior Games.

By Ray Glier

Tom Lough, 81, never turns his back on opportunity. He calls it “using my leverage”, which means that throughout his life Tom was looking at his skills in his mind’s full length mirror and going “Hmmm…I wonder if I could do this with that?”

Leverage is how Lough (Lo) became in his late 70s a screenwriter. It’s how he became in his 40s a teacher and communications expert for the computer programming language Logo, which is used in Lego robotics. It’s how he took modest athletic skill in his 20s and became a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic team in the Modern Pentathlon before going off to Vietnam.

Mr. Everything is building on his saturated resume this weekend at the Texas Senior Games where he will run the 800 and 1500 meters races, completing his comeback from a serious leg injury.

To be undaunted by the mystery of things is a remarkable attribute. Lough, a Major in the U.S. Army by the time he retired in 1974 and a General-ist in life, wants to share his curious spirit with Geezer Jocks.

Tom gives the accustomed pep talk about older folks doing something they are passionate about, but then he adds this, “Once you start doing it try to figure out how to extend that thing in different directions, to give it more value, to increase its impact on others.”

“Different directions” is not risk-taking at 81, Lough said of his sudden screenwriter’s career.

It is his life’s “Victory Lap” using leverage kept in his back pocket all these years. What Tom learned in his 20s he is using in his 80s. Sure, many of us have used leverage in our careers, but we have backed off. Tom reminds us we don't have to back off.

You will appreciate this quick snippet below of his late-life bonanza.

**

He was a pretty decent runner in high school growing up in the Shenandoah Valley (Va.) and learned to fence as a cadet at West Point. Tom was taught to jump horses and fire a pistol, too, and the Department of the Army came with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He would be trained in the Modern Pentathlon (running, swimming, shooting, fencing, horseback riding) and sent to the Olympics and then fulfill his military obligation.

Lough went off to Mexico City and the ’68 Olympics with luminaries like Jim Ryun and Bob Beamon. He didn’t medal, but it was a rich experience. Then came the war in Southeast Asia and being shot down while in a helicopter over that hell called “Hill 937”, which was dubbed “Hamburger Hill” for a film. He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Fast forward 50+ years.

Tom was a devotee of the Modern Pentathlon and studied the history behind the sport. He came across the story of Helen Preece, a 16-year old in London who dared crash the Modern Pentathlon, a citadel of men, in the 1912 Olympics. She was rebuffed, of course.

Tom was 78 and saw potential in Preece’s story and his leverage-stoked mind went to work. It is not improv. He used his own Modern Pentathlon experience and three years of research and worked with a writing team to produce a fictionalized film script based on Preece’s experience.

The non-profit Veterans in Media & Entertainment helped Lough in the ultra-competitive process of getting a fellowship for his work from the Writers Guild Foundation.

Lough studied how to score a film, which is the background music. Tom leveraged his church music experience and his sophisticated keyboard and Mac software to make fabulous tunes.

He learned how to add subtitles and opening and closing credits, as well as video editing.

The script and film, with a fictionalized character, Millie Parker, is Go For The Five, and Lough has received a few nibbles from Hollywood.

At 78, now going on 82, Tom had opened a new door. His mother, whose nickname was “Bunny”, nudged him through new doors as a boy in Penn Laird, Va., until he learned to trust himself and go through those doors on his own.

“In the fifth grade I did not want to study piano, but she pushed me into it,” Tom said. “It was a look-beyond-the-trees into the forest type of thing.”

Tom was just 15 years old when he realized the only path to college in tough financial times for his family was to qualify for West Point so he could set off on an engineering career. On his own, he petitioned the local school board to attend a high school out of his district for the opportunity to study engineering and physics.

“I developed a love for learning that I have to this day,” Lough said. “It's so much fun to be in contact with people that know more than I do, and see what I can learn from them.”

You get the point with this unconfined guy, Geezer Jocks.

Lough got a Masters in Physics at the University of Virginia, he taught STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) before STEM was cool, at Murray State University in Kentucky. He lives in Round Rock, Texas, his base for publishing a confederation of “How To” manuals.

“I now view life as a one-mile run, four laps of 20 years in length,” Lough said. “You cross the finish line at 80 years, whew!, you did it, you have run the good race.

“You earned a Victory Lap. You don't know how long it's going to be, but it gives you the opportunity to reflect on your race and to reach out to those around you and tell them you love them. It gives you the opportunity to continue to learn and try new things.”

That’s the thing with Mr. Everything. He is always on the look out for new things.

Geezer Jock ® is FREE. Please consider supporting me because there is value in storytelling. I have been telling stories for 48 years for newspapers and magazines and websites worldwide. Buy a hat or tee-shirt for the coming sun. 


5 Responses

Billee Pat Connolly
Billee Pat Connolly

July 02, 2024

Great to read this , Tom! especially would like to talk with you sometime soon re your Vietnam experience.

Randy Lipscher
Randy Lipscher

May 31, 2024

Congratulations Tom,

Great article.

Randy

Ceil
Ceil

March 17, 2024

I have known Tom for about 55 years or more, and this article is a very good description of his talents and abilities and his positive can-do attitude. This is actually just the tip of the iceberg of all of his many accomplishments, in addition to his deep love of God and his fellow man. He truly is Mr. Everything.

Redfern
Redfern

March 16, 2024

Good afternoon, Wow! That is one story! I am 82 this year, keep very fit, trekking. I have done the Camino and the Pennine Way. I exercise every morning with Mizi, I do yoga, tai chi and weight training. I have entered the over 80s World Masters Table Tennis competition in Rome this year, for which my coach is working hard to get me up to speed. I am even more inspired by your story to continue on my chosen path. Thank you

Valerie Brooks
Valerie Brooks

March 16, 2024

Great story and writing as always, Geezer Jock! My husband Mark and I will be in San Antonio tomorrow and hope to meet this amazing and inspiring man.

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