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Tom Valeo
1949 - 2015



 
 

We have lost a member of the Class of 1967, Tom Valeo. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as they mourn the loss of their brother, husband, father and friend.

Thomas Anthony Valeo died on April 22, 2015 after facing cancer during his final time on earth. Tom was born August 28, 1949 to Henrietta (Nelson) & Anthony Valeo. He was born and grew up in Kenosha, WI, graduating from St. Joseph High School in 1967. He graduated with honors from UW-Madison in 1971 majoring in History.

Tom was a storyteller by nature and trade. He had a good and fascinating story for every situation because he lived a good & fascinating life. He was a real newspaper man who wrote for many publications. Much of his career was devoted to Chicago theater where he was the critic at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, IL.

A real Renaissance man, as he moved to St. Petersburg, FL his focus shifted to science writing. He was fascinated by everything but especially the brain and how it worked. Tom leaves a great deal of sadness in his wake because of the laughter, intrigue and happiness his presence brought to others while he lived.

He is survived by his wife, Karen Pryslopski, former wife Liz Valeo, children Pete Valeo, Jana Valeo, Nina Valeo Cooke (Tim Cooke) and grandchildren Elliott & Olive, and sister JoAnne Kipping (Paul), all of whom will miss him greatly. In lieu of flowers, a donation to your favorite public radio station or podcast would be appreciated. In honor of Tom, enjoy an optical illusion or two and be amazed for a brief moment by what your brain can do.

Tom's obit was penned with love and kindness by his daughter Jana.

 

TAMPA BAY TIMES
May 6, 2015

Writer Tom Valeo, a mainstay in Times features for many years, dies

 

ST. PETERSBURG — Karen Pryslopski sipped coffee at a tall kitchen table in her home, as she had done each morning with her husband for nearly eight years.

This was their sanctuary, a place to read the paper or whip up an exquisite dinner with whatever was at hand. And while most of the culinary prowess came from Pryslopski, her husband Tom Valeo was a quick study.

He had also taught himself much about the human brain and contributed regularly to Neurology Now and Neurology Today, as well as hundreds of stories for the Tampa Bay Times.

More than a year ago, he even diagnosed his own cancer.

Mr. Valeo, a prolific freelance writer who covered health and lifestyle issues with a light touch, died April 22, of cancer. He was 65.

They got married in this kitchen in 2004, the ceremony performed by a friend who became a notary for that purpose. This is where they shared a daily "cup of coffee and a hug" before going to work — Pryslopski to her job as a photo editor for the Tampa Bay Times, Mr. Valeo down the hall to a tidy office, where medical illustrations of skeletons and lobes of the brain hang on the wall near a subway map of Chicago and a map of the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater.

A New Yorker cartoon at eye level shows the shrouded, scythe-carrying figure of Death standing before a writer at a computer. "Thank goodness you're here," the man says. "I can't accomplish anything unless I have a deadline."

The couple, who met on the rebound from other relationships, preferred home to most places and each other to most crowds. Out the kitchen window, a stand of bamboos shaded part of a patio, where a 20-year-old cat named Sam slept on an outdoor chair.

"When we got married my aunt just said, 'Be nice to each other,'" said Pryslopski, 60. "That's what we tried to do."

Thomas Anthony Valeo was born in Kenosha, Wis., in 1949. "He was always that thoughtful person in the class," said Margo Hammond, 65, a Kenosha native and former Times book critic who met Mr. Valeo in middle school.

After college he worked at a couple of smaller Wisconsin newspapers, then wound up at the Arlington Heights, Ill., Daily Herald, in 1978. He helped out on the Sunday magazine, served as assistant features editor and as a theater critic. Along the way, he married Liz DeMarco and raised three children. The marriage ended in divorce after nearly 20 years.

Throughout his life, experiences led to stories.

In 1978, his mother suffered a heart attack that resulted in permanent brain damage. His father, who had cared for her, developed Alzheimer's disease. Those experiences led to a fascination with the brain, which would in turn lead to medical articles written in crystal clear and easily accessible prose.

Former colleagues at the Daily Herald, where he worked until 2000, describe him as a good listener and an honest editor. His honesty, however, came with a consciously chosen filter.

"He would say, 'If you say something to someone, (ask yourself), what do you want to happen? Think about what you want to say,'" said Pryslopski, who left the Times in 2014.

Nor did Mr. Valeo reveal everything to people close to him. Not too long ago, Hammond told her friend of more than 50 years that she was thinking about taking up meditation.

"He said, 'Oh, I've been meditating since college,' " said Hammond. He just hadn't mentioned it.

He was meditating early in 2014 when he noticed a pressure in his upper chest.

He checked into it, then told his wife he might have esophageal cancer.

"It's stressful when the love of your life is also a self-proclaimed hypochondriac," his wife said. "So when Tom told me that he thought he had esophageal cancer, I said. 'Let's get it checked out and hope you're wrong.' But damn it, he was right."

Doctors confirmed esophageal cancer and said it had metastasized.

"Ask me anything," Mr. Valeo urged his family. He helped his wife with decisions about hospice care and cremation that would have been harder to make alone.

A few days before he died, he reminisced to family members about experiences that had stayed with him. He talked about traveling through South America with a buddy right after college, the places he had worked and things he had learned. Though struggling to speak, this was important.

"Telling these stories was a small way of expressing what he was running out of time to express," said Jana Valeo, his daughter, 33.

With some hesitation, Jana asked her father if he wanted to hear the obituary she had written for him. After she read it to him, Mr. Valeo told his daughter she had "hit it out of the park."

"He said, 'Come here and give me a big hug,' " his daughter recalled. "Of course, I was sobbing. But I was happy despite all the tears."

Mr. Valeo died at home, as he had wished.

Tom Valeo poses for a magazine cover shot at North Shore Park in Tampa, Fla.

Former Daily Herald theater critic Tom Valeo, second from right, with his three children, from left, Pete Valeo, Jana Valeo and Nina Valeo Cooke.

Tom Valeo, second from right, with his three children, from left, Pete Valeo, Jana Valeo and Nina Valeo Cooke

Tom Valeo on a Florida beach with his wife, Karen Pryslopski

 

 

 

 


Tom Valeeo with his Father