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Those We Lost: 'They don't make men like this anymore'

Thomas "Tommy" Bly of Quaker Hill applied wallpaper so precisely that the seams were invisible, according to his niece Millie Simon.

One of his notable projects during his career as a wallpaper installer and painter was a map of the Whaling City that took up an entire wall at the New England Savings Bank in New London. He loved to paint pictures and give them to his family members and friends.

Bly died of COVID-19 on May 5, the day before his 88th birthday.

A veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, he had married his late wife, Gladys, at age 50. They enjoyed traveling together, and he took care of her after she developed Alzheimer's disease.

"One time I went over there, and he was cleaning her up, and I said, 'Man, they don't make men like this anymore,'" his niece said during a phone interview.

Bly lived with his niece after his wife's death, but developed Parkinson's disease and had to be moved to the New London Sub Acute and Nursing Home after Simon could no longer care for him. He took it as it came, said his niece, attending art classes, painting in his room and dining with a group of friends.

In April, he contracted the coronavirus. He looked tired on FaceTime calls, and Simon could tell her uncle was scared. His temperature came down at one point but then, overnight, his condition deteriorated and he was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. An "angel" nurse at the hospital suited up one day and went into his room to hold the phone to his ear so that Simon could convince him to eat.

"I said, 'Get better, and we'll have a picnic,'" she said.

His condition deteriorated over the weekend, and Bly had made it clear he did not want to be put on life support equipment. He was made comfortable as his kidneys shut down, and a doctor explained to Simon what would happen and that Bly wouldn't suffer. He died at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, an hour and a half before he would have turned 88.

A nurse was with him, Simon said.

She said she has "nothing against" the nursing home where he contracted the virus.

"He loved them and they loved him," Simon said. "If anything good comes out of this, they need to do something for nursing homes. They don't get paid enough. They don't have enough staff."

k.florin@theday.com

Editor's Note: Today we remember the lives of three local men who died from COVID-19. Contact Julia Bergman at j.bergman@theday.com if you'd like The Day to write about someone you know who also was stricken by the pandemic.

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