Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Story by Jeanette Wages
Photography by Jonathan Thorpe
Life is too short to be anything but happy. Nobody understands this more than someone who worked in the funeral business for 35 years like Tom “Big T” Gale. Growing up in the Northern Neck region of Virginia, his pharmacist father probably saw his life path clearer than Tom did at the time; making him promise to stay in the field he studied for at least 10 years, which he did. His father also said he would grow up to love life, bourbon, and to be of service to others in need, which he also did.
Being a funeral director requires being on call 24/7 to be there with people on the worst day of their lives and seeing some of the best and worst in families. Tom said he was very blessed to have his wife support him in his profession and for her support when he knew he was done with the business. After retiring, Tom and Lisa decided to take their boat and move to Key West, where they stayed for two years before changing directions to begin a second life here in Alexandria.
Side Gig: Tom is an Auctioneer
Tom, now Director of Operations and Executive Bourbon Steward at Virtue Feed and Grain, is lovingly referred to as Big T by customers and his work family. Big T is following the path his father knew was coming - bringing the joy of bourbon to the world. The thing he loves the most about this second chapter of his life is being in the service business. People want to be there, they want what is being offered, and it makes them happy. He never considers going to Virtue as a day at work. He considers his coworkers his family, and is grateful every day to William Smith and his family for bringing him into the fold and literally saving his life when he had a stroke on the restaurant floor. He is living out his philosophy, “Every day is a holiday, and every meal is a feast”, never taking a moment for granted in his life.
Next Interesting Man of Alexandria 2020 → Jonathan Thorpe