May 6, 1963 — Nov. 12, 2017
Thomas Joseph Comer Jr., a University of Notre Dame graduate and longtime business executive who was leading the effort to find a new president for his alma mater, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, died unexpectedly Sunday at his Amherst home. He was 54.
Born in Williamsville, Mr. Comer followed in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Joseph Comer Sr., and grandfather, Joseph Patrick Comer, by attending St. Joe's. He was a member of the class of 1981, where he played on the football team and was editor of the yearbook his senior year. He went on to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he studied chemistry and graduated in 1985.
After receiving his MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Mr. Comer went to work for IBM. He met his wife, the former Jean Hansen, at Wrigley Field. He then embarked on a yearlong trip around the world, writing at the time that he wanted “to see the different people that comprise our world, because we will only come to love world humanity when we fully understand the perspectives of our neighbors.” Over the course of 10 months and joined by his best friend, Mike Muldowney, Mr. Comer witnessed the fall of Berlin Wall, met Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and hiked to the base camp of Mount Everest. Upon his return in 1991, he and Jean were married.
Over the course of the next two decades, he became the chief executive officer and owner of Royal Bedding Co. Under his leadership, Royal Bedding grew to become Alliance Sleep Products in 2002 with the acquisition of a manufacturing plant in Fayetteville, N.C. In 2009, he expanded the Buffalo operation. He sold the company last year.
Mr. Comer supported several causes in Western New York, always saying he wanted to see other businesses flourish as his had. To further this mission, he joined the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation’s Board of Directors in 1999 and served as its president in 2007 and 2008.
He and his wife lent their leadership and service to St. Joe's, the BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund, and the Diocese of Buffalo Department of Education. He joined the St. Joe's Board of Trustees in 2008 and became chairman this year. He was an instrumental member of the search committee to find a successor Robert Scott, the longtime school president who is set to retire at the end of the school year. Mr. Comer also served on the board of the BISON Fund, which provides tuition assistance for low-income students in Western New York.
Mr. Comer's favorite moments were those spent with family, whether they were climbing mountains in Switzerland and South America, enjoying the outdoors in Ellicottville, or sitting around the dinner table at home on Sunday nights.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters, Aileen, Mary Kathryn and Sarah; two sons, Joseph and Thomas; his mother, Eileen; and three sisters, Anne Comer O’Neill, Melissa Comer Williams and Catherine Comer Helm.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph University Parish, 3269 Main St.