As a young boy, Tom Conrad was known to friends and family as a charming rascal. He could make his young cousins laugh while terrorizing them during summer visits. He could borrow a pal’s car and wreck it without leaving the driveway or losing the friendship.

He had what his dad, Tim, calls the Conrad charm.

Thomas Conrad Photo courtesy of Department of Public Safety

“Thomas had a different way of doing business, folks,” Tim Conrad said on Saturday during his eulogy.

When his father went left, Tom would go right. Tim was in the U.S. Navy, so Tom joined the Army, serving as a combat engineer who cleared minefields in northern Iraq. Tim said he worried about Tom’s dangerous assignments, worried about the call that might come.

Before deploying to Iraq, he talked to his son about his final wishes should he not come back. Tom made him promise he’d play the George Thorogood song “Bad to the Bone” at his funeral. On Saturday, Tim Conrad led those gathered at Community Baptist Church in reciting the first verse.

The most important thing to know about Tom, friends and family said, was how much he loved his 9-year-old daughter, Caroline. He’d moved back to Maine recently and taken a job at Just-In-Time Recreation earlier this year just to be closer to her.


There, he paid special attention to the young bowlers, among whom he was famous for making excellent nachos. He had been planning a Halloween pumpkin-carving competition for younger bowlers. The memorial display in front of the alley is filled with pumpkins as a result.

“He was great with all of the bowling community kids,” said his bowling friend Adam Stoddard. “They all loved him. He loved them so much he put his life in harm’s way to charge the gunman and save the children who were there. He died a hero.”

Stoddard remembered Conrad buying him a beer on his 21st birthday and the times that Conrad would invite him to stay after closing time to swap service stories, listen to Eminem and bowl a few after-hours frames. Sometimes Caroline would be there, playing Minecraft.

“He’d say, ‘Yo, I’m kicking everyone out because of hours, but we are good to stay and shut the place down,’ ” Stoddard said. “We’d all be having a good time listening to music. Thomas really knew how to make you feel like one of the boys.”

Tom took up bowling in 2001, playing for a team on the local submarine base. He received an award for most improved bowler at the end of the season, beginning a lifelong love affair with the sport, his father said.

Conrad’s military service and his love for kids led him to make the ultimate sacrifice. A bowler who was there on Oct. 25, Janet Gabri, told The Boston Globe that Tom rushed the gunman who walked in firing and gave patrons, including her own children, time to run for cover.


“I want the world to know that my son went out a hero,” said Tim Conrad, fighting back tears at Tom’s funeral. “He did what he thought was right. Tough call. You will hear the word hero used a lot today. And right now is no exception. We are gathered here tonight to celebrate a hero.”

Caroline’s mom, Dottie West, described Tom as “the exact person you’d want in an emergency. Any chance he could jump into action, he did. What he did on the night of Oct. 25 perfectly exemplifies his character at its core.”

At the funeral, Tim and Caroline both received flags in honor of Tom’s Army service. After two officers presented the flags, Tom’s father and daughter fist-bumped across the aisle. The funeral was full of children, including some who had been at the bowling alley on the night of the shooting.

The family plans to spread Tom’s ashes at his favorite place in the world, Mount Rainier, and to plant a magnolia tree outside Just-In-Time Recreation when it eventually reopens. Tim Conrad said Lewiston needs to reclaim the bowling alley as the fun place Tom knew it to be.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.