BOSTON/TEWKSBURY – Everyday, Tom Furey thanks his lucky stars. At 91 years young, the Tewksbury resident, who 20 years ago was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, does the same thing when he gets out of his bed each morning.
“I'm a lucky son of a gun to be alive. I wake up every morning and bang my head and say, 'Thank You God that I am still breathing, that I'm waking up alive and I'm not dead'.”
On Friday morning, he woke up, thanked his lucky stars and then took a trip to the city along with his granddaughter Meagan Johnson. The two of them were among an estimated 400 people who put on their swimming outfits and took a leap/dive into the 42 degree waters of the Dorchester Bay, located outside the Curley Community Center as part of the L Street Brownies' 117th annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge.
“You just run in, you dive and you come out quicker than you went in,” he said. “It was a beautiful day. We lucked out and it was like summer time.”
For Furey, this isn't his first rodeo. He has been taking part of this annual event for well over a decade.
“I've done it at least ten times, but I think more than that. I heard it on the radio one New Year's Day,” he recalled. “I was over in Scollay Square with my wife, so we drove over to South Boston. I went over to it and asked 'what's the story' and the woman said, 'do you have two dollars?' I said 'yes' and she said 'well give me the two dollars and now you are an 'L Street Brownie'. She said the (event) was going off in an hour, so I happened to have a pair of speedos in the trunk of my car and I went in for the swim.”
Now well over ten years later, he joined a group of people, which included Tewksbury resident Hank Mulholland, Kevin McBride, the Irish Professional Boxer who beat Mike Tyson back in 2005 and of course, Meagan, as part of this fun event. Tom’s granddaughter grew up in Andover but now lives in California.
“She called me about two weeks ago and I asked if I was going to do it. She flew out from California and we just had a great time together and a lot of laughs,” said Furey. “I remember when she was born. I showed her how to ride a bike and how to do a backflip dive, just did what normal grandfathers do with their grandkids. We had a blast.”
Another one of Furey's grandchildren is Sean Furey (not present at the event), who grew up in Methuen and is a two-time United States Olympian, throwing the javelin. He competed in 2009 and 2016, while he also placed in the top three of the US National Championships six times, winning three times, and competed in the World Championships and the Pan American Games two times each. His best throw is 272 feet, 7 inches.
While Sean's throws are off the charts and truly an unbelievable accomplishment, so is the fact that his grandfather, who is a 91-year-old with prostate cancer, takes part in the yearly Polar Plunge event.
“I just took a position of doing nothing about (the cancer),” he said. “I got it twenty years ago. I'm a hospice patient right now. I haven't done anything in the past twenty years so I'm not going to start doing something about it now.”
Furey grew up in Somerville. In the ninth grade he said he was asked not to return to school so he joined the Merchant Marines, before going into the Army in 1948 and was involved in the Cold War.
“In 1965, we moved here from Somerville,” he said. “I got married. I drove a truck for 30 years and was a teamster in Local-25 in Charlestown.”
During that time of raising a family and driving a truck, he took up the habit of swimming.
“I did a lot of scuba diving. I remember one time we were down in the Quarries in Quincy and went down 185 feet, down to the bottom. I love swimming, always have since I was a kid. I remember going to Quincy Beach all of the time,” he said.