Thomas N. Drum of Ronkonkoma was a regular at his three sons’ sports matches as they grew up. Sometimes, however, he mystified the boys by cheering for their opponents.
His son, Michael Drum of Blue Point, said when he asked his father why he rooted for the opposition, Thomas Drum said, “Well, the other side is down a few goals.”
“He always rooted for the underdog,” Michael Drum said.
Thomas Drum, a retired New York City police detective and Navy veteran, died of cancer Tuesday at home, his son said. He was 88.
He was born and raised in New York City and, like many men of his generation, served in World War II and Korea before moving to the Long Island suburbs.
Drum raised his three sons as a single dad after his wife, Mary Ellen, died of cancer. He was a faithful member of St. Joseph Parish in Ronkonkoma for more than 50 years, an avid golfer, and a gardener so devoted to the hobby that he took classes at Cornell Cooperative Extension to better tend to his plants.
Drum was born on Dec. 13, 1927, and raised in Bayside, Queens, by Irish immigrant parents. He graduated from Bayside High School and later played semi-pro football in the Brooklyn-Queens Alliance.
World War II service took him to China and the Sea of Japan, his son said. During that war and the Korean War, Drum served on the USS Great Sitkin, USS Sampson, USS Cimarron, USS War Hawk and the USS Independence.
He joined the NYPD after the Korean War. He started as a patrolman in the 114th Precinct in Astoria, Queens, and retired as a detective in that precinct.
“It was a huge part of his life,” Michael Drum said. “He just loved it. He made a difference every day.”
Thomas and Mary Ellen Drum moved to Ronkonkoma in the 1950s and lived on a dirt road that wasn’t paved until their children were in high school. “The house started as a tiny little Cape,” their son said. “When they got a little money, they put something else on.”
Thomas Drum grew zucchini, cauliflower and corn to donate to his church. After his wife died, Drum joined a golf club for singles that traveled around Long Island playing 18 holes at various courses.
“They did a different course every week,” his son said. “Then they had a big 19th-hole party.”
In addition to his son Michael, Drum is survived by sons Shawn of Patchogue and Thomas of Ronkonkoma and three grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was said Friday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma. Drum was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.