The Legacy of Lenny Thom Featured

Mary Ellen Frawley, younger sister of Lenny Thom, aboard “Thomcat”

On Tuesday, two of the legacies of Lenny Thom met for the first time. Mary Ellen Frawley, 81, formerly of Sandusky and now of North Olmsted, was just 14 years old when her big brother Lenny died in a car-train accident. 

Sandusky-born and OSU-educated Ensign Lenny Thom had been Executive Officer and unsung hero on Jack Kennedy’s PT109 in World War II. The story of Thom and the PT boat that is being restored and dedicated to his honor was featured in last week’s Beacon and is available on 

Liberty Aviation Museum’s Jeff Sondles arranged for Frawley to see the boat that is to be christened “Thomcat” in honor of the PT boat Thom captained after the famous PT 109 accident that happened 70 years ago this week . 

“You mean the one(PT boat) my brother was on was this big?” asked the amazed Frawley.

“Actually Lenny’s boat was even 8 feet longer,” explained Sondles.

Lenny was the oldest of eight children of a divorced mother. Mary Ellen was the third youngest. Lenny, as the oldest, “kind of took over”, according to Frawley, “taking care of the family as much as he could even from a distance when he was in the service. We had a special bond, since he was my godfather.” 

“I have some of his most wonderful letters. I cherish them. He was great at writing. When he came home, I really looked forward to it. I always wanted to be like him. He would help anyone and give of himself. He would hitchhike home from OSU to Sandusky, so after that he always made it a point to pick up hitchhikers.”

Frawley remembered her big brother as being “very handsome, very intelligent, very loving and giving. Anybody that was lucky enough to be touched by him was fortunate. It was a big shock to family (to lose him). We were all devastated.”

Lenny Thom’s legacy lives on brightly in his vibrant baby sister Mary Ellen Frawley. 

His legacy lives on at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton. Frawley has donated several of Thom’s items for display there. 

Thom’s legacy lives on through his widow Cathryn and his son Lenny Jr., an attorney in Alaska. Frawley says they all stay in touch by email.

Thom’s legacy lives on at Sandusky High School, where he is a member of the Sandusky High School Hall of Fame and where the Ensign Leonard J. Thom Scholarship fund was established in his honor.

His legacy lives on in Thom’s biography “Unsung Hero” by Michael Bell, and in the movie “PT 109”, though sister Mary Ellen says she was disappointed in the actor’s portrayal of Lenny in the movie.

His legacy now will live on in “Thomcat”. Frawley and others in the family “were very excited and thrilled when we found out about the boat.” After meeting “Thomcat” in person, she is even more so. “Lenny would have been proud of this boat and his little sister, “said Frawley.

“Thomcat” is scheduled to have her engines installed on Aug. 12, according to her captain Frank Nenodovich. She may be in the water for sea trials in September.

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