Tom Suwarno (Tan Hok Khie), a loving and loved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, died on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Good Samaritan Hospital, Long Island. He was 86 years old. He was surrounded by immediate family until his final breath, joined in prayer.
Born on April 27, 1931, Tom grew up amongst his four older siblings in the beautiful coastal city of Pekalongan, Indonesia. A bright and promising scholar, he left home to attend high school at St. Stephen’s College in Hong Kong. His quiet charisma and hard-working determination made him a favorite of the teachers, many of whom wrote long Christmas cards to Tom for years to come. At St. Stephen’s, he befriended a young boy named John. One day, John showed Tom a picture of a beautiful girl from Indonesia, playfully encouraging him to write her a letter. Tom recognized the girl as Padmawati, one of his neighbors back in his hometown of Pekalongan, and started writing.
When Padmawati received an envelope from Hong Kong, she and her girlfriend excitedly opened the letter only to find that it was written in English. They went to her cousin, Tiesin, to translate Tom’s words into Indonesian. The couple exchanged dozens of letters, all of which Tiesin diligently translated. Padmawati’s father found out about the lovers’ correspondence, and approving of the union, brought Tom to Pekalongan to engage the couple to be married. Afterwards, Tom was sent back to school to finish his education. He moved to the Phillippines to attend Santo Tomas University in Manila, where he studied pharmaceutical studies. He returned to Indonesia to study at Fakultas Ilmu Pasti and Ilmu Alam, Bandung Institute of Technology in the city of Bandung. In 1954, he reunited with Padmawati, and the two happily married among family and friends. The couple shared a deep love and friendship for the next 64 years.
Tom and Padmawati returned to their home city of Pekalongan, where they resided with their 6 children before deciding to move to the United States in 1981. The family’s first stop in the States was San Francisco, where the family reunited with Padmawati’s brother. In 1984, the family moved across the country to Long Island, New York, where Tom worked at Cameo Printing Company and later at Printex Printing Packaging.
In 1997, Tom retired from his printing work to live with his children. Avid travellers, Tom and Padmawati joined their children and grandchildren in Jakarta, California, Texas, North Carolina, and New York. Throughout his retired years, Tom carried his love of music everywhere he went, with the sounds of his musical talent played out on the harmonica, accordion, saxophone, and piano. Of his vast musical repertoire, his favorites included "Fur Elise", "Longing for Home", and "Flower Song". His grandchildren would soon share his affinity for music, and in his later years would learn and play his favorite songs.
For leisure, Tom enjoyed watching cowboy and war movies, and the sounds of firing pistols and rallying cries of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were familiar in each of the family households. He loved browsing the Internet, reading the daily news from the Indonesian news source, Kompas, keeping in touch with his friends and family across the globe through Facebook and email, and following the latest trends of health and dietary care. He shared his love for food with family, travelling through Asia, Europe, and North America with a full and happy stomach.
Tom cared for each and every one of his family members, inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves they could be. He supported the endeavors and passions of his children, and attended the piano concerts, ballet recitals, sports games, and graduations of his grandchildren. Tom loved Padmawati unfailingly through every move, every illness, and every milestone, keeping their first love letters in pristine condition to this day.
Tom will be remembered with love by his wife, Padmawati; his six children, Diono, Patricia, Hernowo, Mimi, Jati, and Sutrati; his five children-in-law, Margaretha, Kurniawan, Erna, Natalina, and Agustinus; his eleven grandchildren, Melvin, Marcel, Brian, Andreas, Amanda, Audrey, Nina, Brama, Antonio, Nadia, and Alexa; his four grandchildren-in-law, Angela, Chelsea, Yananto, and Desy; and two great-grandchildren, Arianna and Mia.