If you had bet across the board on the lifetime success of Tom F. Carey, you would have won big. A giant in the business of horseracing and a Chicago Catholic League gridiron legend, Mr. Carey, 87 passed away peacefully Dec. 17th at his home in Florida after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. He is a 1998 inductee to Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Tom, a native of Chicago’s Southeast Side was born Nov 11, 1932 into what is today one of the most recognizable families in all of horseracing. The Carey’s of Hawthorne Race Track. It’s rare to find a man with two destinies; one in football and the other in the business of horseracing, but Tom certainly did and made the very best of both.
A football star at Chicago Mt. Carmel and a lifelong contributor and champion of the school, he was the quarterback of coach Terry Brennan’s undefeated 1950 City Championship team that Chicago Sun Times prep reporter Taylor Bell heralded as the greatest Illinois high school football team of its era. Post-graduation he and five Mt. Carmel Caravan teammates headed to the University of Notre Dame where they joined fellow Catholic League legend and Fenwick High School alum Johnny Lattner. Tom played quarterback for the Irish from 1951-1953 under Frank Leahy and then again for his former high school coach and Notre Dame alum Terry Brennan for his senior season in 1954. He and Ralph Guglielmi were the QB’s the year Lattner won the Heisman in 1953 and he later called Lattner, “The greatest athlete he ever saw play.”
Tom returned to Mt. Carmel High School in 1956 to take over the football program as head coach and helmed the program from 1956-1960. As head coach of the Caravan he won 4 sectional titles and the 1960 City Prep Bowl Championship, with his younger brother Tony, also a future Notre Dame star, playing quarterback. The quarterbacking Carey’s along with the quarterbacking Lynch brothers of today’s modern era hold the unique distinction of being the only brother combinations in Mt. Carmel history to have coached each other to a championship win. Current Mt. Carmel head football coach Jordan Lynch coached his younger brother Justin to a class 7A State Championship win this past fall.
Foregoing an almost certain celebrated career in coaching, Tom elected to get a law degree from Northwestern and in 1969 joined his father Robert F. Carey in the century plus family business of owning and operating Cicero’s Hawthorne Race Track. He became president of Hawthorne in 1980.
Tom helped Arlington International Racecourse rebuild after a 1985 fire at the northwest suburban track that could have put Arlington permanently out of business. He offered to let Arlington run races at Hawthorne, which it did.
Without that, “You would have had a pause in racing in Illinois, and the horses may not have come back,” said Jim Miller, director of media relations for Hawthorne.
“Smoke was still coming out” when Mr. Carey arrived to lend a hand, said Dick Duchossois, chairman emeritus of Arlington. “He was the first one sitting on our doorstep to say ‘You can run the rest of your meet at Hawthorne.’”
“We went over there with all of our troops” to finish the season and many racing jobs were saved as a result, Duchossois said. Tom was a hands-on, highly visible figure at Hawthorne, which is now operated by his nephew Tim Carey.
“On racing day, he would be there in the winner’s circle,” Miller said. “He would be in the paddock as the horses were being saddled. He would eat in the food court with the patrons.”
During his era, top thoroughbreds that ran at the track included Cryptoclearance, Awesome Again and Black Tie Affair. If there is ever a horse to be named in Tom’s memory, “Double Destiny” has a nice ring to it.
Tom is survived by his wife Susan and six children. Services were held.
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