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HomeTom Allen Sr

Thomas G Allen, III

You will live in our hearts forever!

Thomas G. Allen, III

It is with great sadness that we share with you of the passing of Thomas Allen, III
On December 6, 2012 the Lightning Class lost a great legend. Allen, better known as Tom Senior, was a champion on and off the race course. He changed the fabric of our class as founder of the Allen Boat Company. Our thoughts and  prayers are with the entire Allen family during this time.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, December 15, at 10:30 AM at
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church,
4007 Main St, Amherst, New York 14226

Immediately following the memorial, all are welcome to a gathering at the
Buffalo Yacht Club, Foot of Porter Ave, Buffalo, New York 14201, from around 12:30 untill 4:00.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lightning Class or another organization of your choice.

Thomas Gilchrist Allen III, 81, of Amherst, N.Y., husband of 56 years to Anne Smither Allen, passed away on December 6, 2012 in Amherst. An entrepreneur, boat builder, champion sailor and a passionate lover of the Buffalo Canoe Club and his summer home in Bay Beach, Ontario, Tom will be remembered for his uncanny ability to build and sail boats.

He attended the Nichols School in Buffalo. He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Albion College and graduated in 1953, followed by two years in the Navy where he was a member of the swimming team. In 1961 he founded the Allen Boat Company in Buffalo, N.Y. where he built sailboats, but most notably, the Lightning class sailboat. Initially, his boats were built of wood but over time their construction switched to fiberglass. He became the largest manufacturer of the Lightning class boat in the world. At the time of his passing Tom was still affiliated with the Allen Boat Company, which is now run by his son, Thomas Allen.

Tom’s sailing record is legendary. Over the span of his life he has won four Lightning World Championships, eight North American Lightning Championships, a Flying Dutchman North American Championship, the Albacore Nationals, a gold and silver medal in the Pan American Games, and was an alternate member of the U.S. Olympic Team in the Flying Dutchman class for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. He has won so many races that it is difficult to portray the extent of his success.

His success was also a partnership. His wife Anne, who also grew up sailing at Bay Beach, was his lifetime crew sailing with him every step of the way in the Lightning. Racing the Lightning, they traveled throughout Europe and South America. In 1961 he was awarded the March of Dimes Award for Sport as well as the Buffalo Athletic Club’s Athlete of the Year. Tom served as Commodore of the Buffalo Canoe Club in 1985. In 1996 Tom was the first sailor to be inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. And in 2007 he was honored by being awarded a life membership in the Lightning Class.

In Tom’s opinion one of his finest accomplishments and joy is the fact that all of his family, right down to the youngest grandchild, is involved in sailing. Tom is survived by his wife, partner and crew, Anne Smither Allen, and his four children; Jane Allen (Canton, MI), Brenda Crane (Darien, CT.), Thomas Allen (Kenmore, N.Y.), and James Allen (Walled Lake, MI). A sister, Joan Armour, survives him. He also leaves behind six grandchildren; Robert, Kelly, Shelby, Karl, Tyler and Abby.

The Stuff Legends Are Made Of, Forever a Part of Me, Forever Remembered, Forever Loved.
By Shelby Allen, Grandaughter of Tom

The world lost a legend yesterday.

He was a Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame member.

He was a 4 time Lightning World Champion and 8 time Lightning North American Champion.

He was 5 time Lightning Canadian Open Champion, and I have no Idea how many other regattas he won or how many first place flags he earned.

He was a gold and a silver medalist in the Pan Am games.

He was a 1968 Olympian.

He was a Champion in the Albacore and Flying Dutchman fleets.

He was an assistant to the 1996 Olympic team.

He was in the Navy.

He was a man who had a heart attack, on the water, near the end of a race he was doing well in...not only did he not die, but one of the first things he asked the doc was when he could get back to sailing.

He was a man who started his own business doing something he loved, and made a life-long career out of it.

The world lost a legend, I, I say goodbye to a grandfather.

Goodbye to you my partner in crime.

I will forever remember:

  • sneaking the good chocolate or the good cookies before dinner
  • stuffing extra ice cream into whatever flavor float we were making
  • eating ALL of the chex mix while guarding it from others.

Goodbye to the one who shared my love for water and water sports, for sunshine and summers at the beach.

Goodbye to mister, to a tiger, and to the other one who is trouble.

I will forever remember our sparing matches, even at the dinner table. You always had a dose of wit and words ready for me. There was never a shortage of growls nicknames or comebacks on either side. Who is going to call me an elf at Christmas this year? You are the only one I let get away with that kind of thing.

You could hold your own with anyone, and taught me how to do the same. You wouldn’t have understood the reference but, all we do is win gramps, it’s true and I definitely get that from you. You were always trouble, and taught me how to be stubborn and trouble in the best way possible too. I will forever remember being one of the many you called trouble, especially since it was your last word to me as well.

Goodbye to a Grandfather who was always around.

I will forever remember and be thankful for you coming to:

  • So many dance recitals
  • Birthday dinners
  • Chorus Concerts
  • Long Graduations and Awards Ceremonies
  • Bad Band Concerts

I will forever remember the months I lived with you and Gram in the summer so I could take sailing lessons at the club.

Goodbye to a Grandfather who encouraged me to be my best, in anything from swim to school, and shared whatever knowledge he had to help me be the best.

Goodbye to my favorite pair of blue eyes.

I will forever remember:

  • How they changed shades like mine
  • How they could be piercing and match the sea or the sky
  • That moment in Greece when you matched the radiance of the Medittanean, you don’t know but I wrote about that time for my essay that got me into college.
Goodbye to a man who had so many stories.


I will forever remember:

  • So Many of the Great Allen RoadTrip Adventure Stories
  • So many of the stories that spoke volume of your wit, whether you were pranking someone or problem solving or jerryrigging something. You taught Dad those skills, and the two of you did your best to pass some of them on to me… even if Karl got most of that.

Some of our trips too:

  • I remember when Dad and I almost lost you in the Airport on the way to Greece
  • I remember our family trip to St. Croix
  • I remember being little and sitting in the car with you talking about swim and about music and I don’t remember where we were leaving from or going to but I remember you playing opera in the car, like always, and I remember you telling me about the auditions at a school in town and asking if I wanted to go listen to the great singers with you.
  • I remember swimming from our cottage to the club and back with you, working on my stroke, always instilling a desire to improve.
  • I remember that time I thought I was going to the cub to help you take the boat out of the water before the lightning storm just for you to tell me to hop in when we stood at the dock and then take me out for a quick sailing lesson before the storm and before coming in.
  • I remember our walks on the beach. Linked arm in arm, or walking to our own rhythms and embracing the freedom, either way you were always the best beach walking partner.

I remember you. You are forever a part of me, you are forever remembered, you are forever loved.

Of your myriad of accomplishments I will always be the most proud and thankful for the following: for giving me two men who were consistently around as I grew up and who I could look up to, yourself and my Dad. You built strong boats and you built a strong family. I am proud to be an Allen and always will be. I only changed my name on here to hide from grad schools, don’t worry I’ll put it back. Sorry you won’t see me graduate or go to graduate school. I know you’d be proud. You’d also ask me if I was top of my class yet and ask why not every time I say no. You’d also tell me to make sure to always have a big stick, and to beat all the boys away with it. Don’t worry gramps I know that high standards have a purpose and I will always make sure to invest my time in the things that deserve it, if I’m gonna put the hard work into it than that is the only way to go.

So, let me tell you, I’ll meet you on the water on one of those pretty good days you always spoke of. One of those days where the sun sparkles on the water like your eyes did when you were being clever. One of those days when the wind is equally fierce and gentle, like you. You’ll be there, telling me not to pinch, and telling me when I should really be tacking and definitely telling me to feel the boat and telling me to make it go faster. You will always still challenge me to be the best in anything and everything. Though you will not physically be there and join us for a cook-out after, it will still be one of those good days because we did it all; enjoyed the beach, enjoyed the weather, enjoyed sailing, and enjoyed being with each other…and you will be there with us all, you will always be in me.

Red skies always at night, Fair Winds and Following Seas First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of the BCC, Go Rest Now in Peace.

Tom (12511) sailing with daughter Jane and Larry Bone leading the pack at the 1974 NAs in Cleveland

Tom Allen, III - US Sailing Sailor of the Week (2008)

2006 Yearbook Interview with Tom Allen, III by Amy Smith Linton

Special Thoughts:

On behalf of the International Lightning Class Association, I want to extend my sincerest sympathies and condolences to the entire Allen family. Tom Allen, Sr. was the definition of a true Corinthian Sportsman and a first class gentlemen ! His amazing list of racing accomplishments in the Lightning may never be matched. 4 World Championships in addition to 8 North American Championships !!! We wish his family our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.
John Faus, President
International Lightning Class Association

Dear Allen Family,
Sailing Allen boats has brought us great joy. Some of us have shared moments with Tom Sr. and remember his sailing at the 2005 Worlds in Chile with great admiration. Some of us did not have the privilege of meeting Tom in person but have been blessed by his work. His spirit keeps on living through generations of grateful sailors and the dedicated work his son and family put in supporting our Class. We cannot pass on the opportunity to recognize a great man and his legacy that keeps on sailing with us and allows us to experience some of the best moments of our lives. Tom IV and family, our thought are with you.
Chilean Lightning Sailors: Cristobal Perez, Francisco Perez, Cristian Perez, Edmundo Perez, Ignacio Perez, Phillip Goyeneche, Pablo Cerna, Micah Ortuzar

The Lightning Class has been an integral part of the Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer experience since the 50s. Thank you, Tom, for being such a resource and advocate for our sailing program. Your memory lives on through the campers who will continue to come down to the river to sail Allen Lightnings.
John Hyde, Program Director

He stayed at my house during what I believe was his last NAs at Annapolis in 2007.
My kids are swimmers, he told us all how he was a swimmer in the Navy in the '50s. 
He wasn't sure he would make the olympic team in swimming, so he switched to sailing.
Sailing and the Lightnings in particular are so much better off that he made that 1 choice.
And of course, he beat me in the 2007 NAs.
Bob Harmon and Family


I remember clearly the first day Don Cheek, Bo Roberts and myself met Tom in Buffalo to order our 1st Allen boat (Lightning 42). He offered us a place to stay during our visit. Don claimed that we crash landed (little ruff) at the Buffalo airport. Nonetheless, we ordered two Allen boats for the 1979 season. And have never regretted it. After hurricane Bertha, Tom loaned us two boats to get through the summer of 1996. His son and family have been good friends over the years.
Pete Morasca
Sea Gull Sailing Master from 1979-2007

Dear Tom and all the Allen Family,
Our most sincere condolences for the loss of one of the greatest proponents of Lightning sailing of all time, Tom Allen Senior who departed and continues sailing in the sea of eternity.

Hold on tight in these difficult times.

Our best wishes to the Allen Family, from Ruben, Jorge and Daniel Salgado and Fleet 520 from Antofagasta, Chile

If anyone would like to share additional thoughts, memories or photos of Tom please forward them to the Class Office:

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