Levittown native Thomas M. McLaughlin spent his youth drawing, airbrushing, surfing and skateboarding.
He eventually took his love and skills as an artist to Southern California, where he settled in as an independent animator working with Warner Bros. Studios and the Cartoon Network.
It was in California that the former Jones Beach lifeguard died suddenly on Sept. 19 as a result of a heart condition. He was 56.
Tommy, as he was known, had a kind heart, endless energy and a crazy sense of humor that made him friends quickly, his sister Laura Duffy said.
"His humor was intoxicating, his energy immeasurable, his talent untouchable," said Duffy, of Huntington. "Tommy's heart was always so full and he would go to exhausting lengths to show his family and friends how much he cared."
McLaughlin was born Aug. 19, 1957, at Brooklyn Hospital. He was the second of four children born to Thomas and Barbara McLaughlin, and he grew up in Levittown.
By the time he was a young boy he knew he would be an animator and drew constantly, his sister said. After graduating from Division Avenue High School in 1976, he attended visual arts schools in Manhattan and Long Island.
McLaughlin worked at Jones Beach as a lifeguard between 1978 and 1990 while working in New York City as an animator for such companies as Warner Bros., Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse, and Stan Lee, Duffy said. During this time he also worked as a bartender at some of Long Island's most famous watering holes of that day including Buttle's, Brightfellow's and Coco's.
In 1990 he moved to California.
Peter Mase, a childhood friend, said he will remember McLaughlin as a very special person who was always drawing, an excellent athlete, and a doting father who lived life with a positive and upbeat attitude.
"He was just so caring and very sincere," Mase, of Levittown, said. "He always stayed the same. He was always so talented but he never boasted about anything and he had quite a bit of accomplishments."
In addition to his sister, he is survived by his wife, Brenda, and children Chris, Shannon and Brendan, all of the Southern California area; his mother, Barbara McLaughlin of Levittown; and brother Timothy of New Market, N.H.
A memorial service will be held Saturday at Thomas F. Dalton Funeral Home, 2786 Hempstead Tpke. in Levittown, from 2 to 7 p.m. There will be a blessing at 5 p.m.