“Where did the cruise go?” came the question over the wall of his cluttered cubicle at NR’s offices, where Thomas A. Bolan spent the last decade of his wound-down career as a big-league, clued-in New York attorney (he was, after all, Roy Cohn’s law partner). “Cologne,” I told him. “I was there,” he responded, “from 10,000 feet.”
Among his many roles and duties in his 92 years, the one that most impressed us at the NR offices was that he flew an odds-defying 35 bomber missions over Cologne and many other Nazi citadels in the thick of World War Two (not that he ever brought up the startling fact, but someone would eventually tell you, “Didja know that Tom . . .”). That might have been the most impressive feat, but the most . . . amazing: Tom was a fight promoter who put on heavyweight championship bouts between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson, among others, including Sonny Liston, a pal (“you know, he converted to Catholicism”). Another pal — Donald Trump (and dad Fred — Tom did legal work for the family). Another pal — anyone in a Yankee uniform. Tom (who rarely missed a home game, which he would watch, like royalty, from the owner’s suite) was a counsel and confidant to George Steinbrenner, but long before Tom had earned his shingle (did St. John’s University have a more loyal alumnus?) after coming back from Europe, the Pinstripe fanatic, from his bleacher seats, befriended All Star outfielder Charlie Keller. If you were lucky, as I was, Tom would pull out of his desk or from the middle of a pile of paper an artifact, maybe a scorecard from a 1942 Yankee game, and show you that “King Kong” had two hits and drove in three runs one humid Bronx afternoon against the Philadelphia A’s. The man loved baseball.
He also loved National Review, a byproduct in part of his love for its founder. Tom Bolan was involved, intimately, with Bill Buckley and NR from the magazine’s earliest days (and two of his sons, Billy and the late Sean, worked here at one time or another). He was guaranteed to be found at any NR function, whether a board meeting or a Christmas party or a Firing Line taping, snapping pictures that he happily shared afterwards. A leader of the old East Side Conservative Club, a confidant to Ronald Reagan, a former prosecutor, a former chairman and executive director of the National Review Institute, chairman of the Catholic War Veterans, husband of the terribly wonderful Marie, father of five, Tom left his cubicle bastion (the image I have of the last years: Tom in shirtsleeves, the phone ringing, orange peels strewn on top of crossword puzzles, turning off his transistor radio — Yankees! — pushing away from his ancient PC, putting in his hearing aids, and cheerfully greeting an old client, some who called daily) about three years ago, a long and full life having caught up where German flak had failed. Home to Flushing and family, no more flights, no more board meetings to contend with, no more estates to settle. But there was always a Yankees game to be watched! On Saturday, May 12, Tom passed away. May our friend rest in peace, and may God grant his family comfort and solace. Here is Tom’s formal obituary:
BOLAN, THOMAS A. Esq., age 92 of Flushing, NY died May 12, 2017. He served his country in World War II, flying 35 bombing missions over Germany, and was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York under three U.S. Attorneys in the 1950s. In private law practice for almost 50 years, Mr. Bolan was the longtime partner of Roy M. Cohn, senior partner in the firms Saxe, Bacon & Bolan and Bolan, Lang, Binacone & Tiffenberg, taught in the St. John’s University School of Law for four years, and was executive officer or director of numerous corporations, banks, and charitable organizations. Mr. Bolan represented the Archdiocese of New York in cases such as school prayer and defending Catholic teachers against discrimination, was Judge Advocate for the Catholic War Veterans, and was a founder of the Human Life Foundation, the Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Life, and other pro-life organizations. Head of President Reagan’s 1980 transition team in New York State, he was also appointed by Reagan as Director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation in the 1980s. Mr. Bolan was active in politics and was a co-founder of the New York State Conservative Party, Chairman of the East Side Conservative Club, and was a close personal friend and confidante of William F. Buckley, Jr., for whose magazine National Review he served on the board of directors for many years. A Knight of Malta since 1966, he received numerous awards in recognition of his service to the nation and the Catholic Church. An avid Yankees fan, he was friend and attorney for George M. Steinbrenner, the late Yankees owner, who was quoted in the New York Post as saying, “I don’t make a trade unless I talk to him.” He is survived by his wife, Marie, children Douglas, Mary, Jacqueline and William, and grandchildren Christopher, John, Jennifer, Brian, Matthew, Isaac, Emily, and Jonathan. He was preceded in death by his son Thomas Sean in 2002, and granddaughter Margaret in 2003. A wake will be held on Tuesday, May 16 from 2-4pm and 7-9pm at the Harden/Quinn-Fogarty Funeral Home, 208-17 Northern Blvd, Bayside, NY 11361. A mass of Christian burial will be held on Wednesday, May 17th at 9:30am at St. Andrew Avellino Church, 35-60 158th St., Flushing, NY, 11358. In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Human Life Foundation, 353 Lexington Ave., NY, NY 10016.