Thomas E. Smusyn
November 8, 1932 – July 19, 2020
Thomas Edward Smusyn born November 8th 1932 to Josephine (nee Rack) and Nick on Winnemac Avenue in Chicago, lifelong resident of the Northwest side. Graduate of Taft High School and Wright College. Reunited in death with his parents and brothers Artie, Nick and Bill. Father to Thomas B., Laura and Steven. Grandfather and father figure to Loreli DeFina (Jason) and Jacqueline Nicole DeFina. Great-Grandfather to Eliana, Izabel, Arianna, Noemi and Ethan. Beloved Uncle to many nieces and nephews. Fond pup grandpa to Marley and Chip. Former husband to Kathleen (nee Degen).
A Navy Veteran who served 4 years during the Korean Conflict and dedicated USPS postal carrier for over 25 years. He will always be remembered for his love and dedication to providing for his family, his strong work ethic, and his pride in everything he did. Touted in the field of Gangster Americana as the ”Godfather of all things John Dillinger” he was a respected historian and author who traveled the country researching at several state libraries and interviewing countless people to find the true story of John Dillinger’s life. He co-wrote John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America’s First Celebrity Criminal and contributed to several documentaries and Hollywood movies with respect to Dillinger and other depression-era gangsters. Additionally, he was an avid sports player and fan who spent many years coaching his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s various sports teams.
In lieu of flowers, please donate in his name, to The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation at www.rizzo44.com
For more information, please call (773) 774-4100.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Thomas E. Smusyn
Loreli De Fina
July 26, 2020
Pops, You were not just my grandfather but my father too. I learned so much from you but most importantly I learned to put your all in whatever you do. You taught me the meaning of sacrifice and hard work. I would not be half the woman I am today had it not been for you and I surely would not have been able to finish nursing school without your love and support, and help with caring for Eliana. I am so blessed to have had you for all these years. My daughters have also been blessed by your love and selflessness. Many times it seemed like you loved us more than yourself!! I am so grateful that I was able to take care of you these last few years to show you my appreciation and love for all you have done for me and my girls. I will never forget you and all our adventures and traditions. We will continue to carry them on with our kids and grandkids. May you rest easy until we meet again, Pops. I love you.
July 22, 2020
I met Tom some years ago as a result of our mutual interest in the old Lake County Jail at Crown Point, Indiana and one of its most interesting inmates, John Dillinger. I immediately found Tom to be a wealth of knowledge. I would call Tom and ask him a question and within several days I would receive a hand written narrative on blue lined yellow paper telling me everything he knew about the question asked . Tom didn't use a computer or typewriter, just very neat handwriting. I have quite a stack of those now treasured letters and occasional newspaper photos that Tom would get at the library. He loved the old jail and I was honored to have him visit several times with his friends, Ellen Poulsen, and Lori Wilcox Hyde. I considered Tom to be a good friend and he will be sorely missed.
July 22, 2020
Hello, I'm so sorry to hear this sad news and will be praying for all of you! With our family being direct relatives of John Dillinger, Audrey is our grandmother, I watched "18 Months of Mayhem". After hearing Tom speak I reached out to him and enjoyed speaking with him. He was glad to help me with questions I had after going through items left by Audrey and her daughter, Mary, who grew up with her Uncle John. Tom sent me copies of items that involved our family for which we're forever grateful. A very gracious and giving man that I'm sure has left these attributes with the rest of you. God Bless!
July 22, 2020
Tom was a mentor, teacher and friend. He was a dear gentleman from the old school. Never a frown or curse word, always a smile. My husband Andrew and I loved our visits to Chicago for lots of sports talk (for Andrew) and Dillinger talk (for me).
Tom always came to Dillinger Night at the Biograph. He brought his beautiful family with him. It was so special to share the Dillinger event with him.
Tom took me to places in the Dillinger story, took them out of folklore and made them real. I am posting a photo here of Tom and me at the Crown Point County Jail in Lake County. My husband Andrew photographed us at this, the scene of the wooden gun escape.
Other locations I viewed with Tom are so numerous, they can’t all be listed. They were the side alleys, the obscure hideouts, the places no history book ever captured. Tom brought these experiences to life. He will be forever missed.
My deepest condolences go out to Tom’s family at this time.
Jacqueline (Nicole) DeFina
July 21, 2020
As I sit here and try to think what can I say about my pops. Words can’t describe what a wonderful man you were. You did so much for your family and you probably don’t even realize how much you will be missed. I have so many great memories that I will never forget. From you taking us to the circus every year or even to just going to the park and getting candy after. I remember going ice-skating, sledding, swimming, and going to eat pancakes with you at Golden Nugget. So many great memories and so many things that I will continue to do with my family to keep your legacy alive! The one thing that stands out the most with me is that you always made people feel special. When you would walk in the room to greet them or you would see them you always would have a smile on your face and say “hey it’s so and so”. That is what I learned from you it’s not what you say or do it’s about how you make people feel and I’ll carry that with me forever. You will always be the first man I ever loved and you were not only my grandpa but my Father.
July 21, 2020
Laura and family, you will always have wonderful memories to surround you.
So sorry for your loss.
July 20, 2020
My name is Izabel Ramirez and I was Thomas’s great-grandchild, you all may have known him as Tom or Thomas but I knew him as papa. Papa was not the stereotypical great grandfather, where you would go visit and he would just sit around telling you stories of the old days dwelling on how it sucks getting old. Nope not papa, I think I can speak for everyone in the family and that knew him. He did not let age define who he was or what he could accomplish. He had such a young mindset that it gave everyone in the family anxiety because we always thought one wrong move and he was going down. But that didn’t stop him, he played softball with us well into his 80’s as well as worked out. Papa never complained about his situation or the age that he was. There something truly beautiful being able to witness someone who embraces getting old instead of avoiding it. Papa taught me many things in life, like how to ride the CTA , or anything there was to know about softball, or who John Dillinger was and why he cared so much about him. But the one take away that I wish to embrace in my life is aging. I think papa wasn’t upset about getting old because he knew there was true beauty being able to live long enough to witness a 40th birthday of his grandchild or be able to carry his first great-grandson or see his daughter have two beautiful girls. I know that I will cherish all the memories that I have with papa from him chasing me and Eliana pretending to be Frankenstein to asking him for a mint that he always carried in his pocket. Papa I love you and this isn’t goodbye this is see you soon and when we do meet again I’m expecting a mint.
July 20, 2020
I have many wonderful childhood memories with Mr. Smusyn, my oldest and dearest friend's dad AND our friendly mailman! We loved to ride on the mail cart! Mr. Smusyn was so generous. I thought it was so cool that Laura was able to take coins from her dad's coin dish in the dining room so that we could treat ourselves to french fries at the Chicago Italian Beef restaurant down the block. Mr. Smusyn took us to Gompers Park often. Each winter, he made the best ice skating rink in his backyard for all of the neighborhood kids to enjoy! I loved watching him wrap his comic books so carefully in plastic wrap. I will never forget his friendly smiles-always making us kids feel welcomed! Love you, Tom