Nov. 5, 1950 – Jan. 15, 2020
Thomas J. Slaiman, of Grand Island, an elementary school teacher and principal who in retirement developed a following as a humorous raconteur, died Wednesday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a brief illness. He was 69.
Born in Niagara Falls, he was a 1968 graduate of Niagara Falls High School and received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport in 1972.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in school administration from Niagara University.
Mr. Slaiman was a teacher in Depew elementary schools for 20 years, including a stint as assistant principal and acting principal at Cayuga Heights Elementary School, then served for 20 years as principal of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in the Cheektowaga Sloan School District. He retired in 2012.
In Depew, he was active in the Depew Teachers Organization, serving as president and chief negotiator. He was twice named Educator of the Year.
A lifelong member of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, he was ordained as a subdeacon in 1980.
He served on the Parish Council for more than 30 years, including two terms as president. At the time of his death, he was vice president of the council and chairman of the capital projects committee.
Long active in the Whirlpool Park Little League, he served as its treasurer for 25 years and was a coach for 15 years.
He volunteered for many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, Meals on Wheels and several soup kitchens in the area.
In retirement, he was active in the Western Door Playhouse in the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center in Niagara Falls. He served on its board of directors and directed and performed in many plays and musicals.
While a teacher, he wrote brief humorous items that appeared in The Buffalo News. The theater company provided him with a broader outlet for his comic side.
He created “An Evening With Tom Slaiman,” followed by “Another Evening With Tom Slaiman,” in which he made observations and told stories based on his experiences. Proceeds raised funds for the Western Door Playhouse.
Doug and Polly Smith, reviewing “An Evening With Tom Slaiman” in the Niagara Gazette in 2014, noted: “Beneath all the hilarity was a profound humility. Nowhere in his long educational resume has Tom ever taught a lesson as profoundly simple as this, to never, ever, take yourself too seriously.”
“Everything is true,” Mr. Slaiman told an interviewer on radio station WJJL prior to the debut of “Another Evening” in 2016. “Now have I embellished some of the stories? Maybe a little bit. The last show, we had, like, a sword, a piece of baloney and a dog.”
Many of the stories involved members of his large extended family.
“All of them love it,” he said in the interview, “except one.”
Surviving are his wife of almost 47 years, the former Mary Anne Marasco; three sons, Jim, Ricco and Dan; a daughter, Maria Cosen; two brothers, Michael and George; and nine grandchildren.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, in St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 1073 Saunders Settlement Road, Lewiston.