Thommy T-Shirt Day: Remembering a Legend

March 29, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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This year, the Cleveland International Film Festival dedicates its annual T-shirt Day to the memory of longtime festival staff member, Thom Duke. He was a constant presence at Will Call, which was renamed the “Duke Desk” in honor of his 70th birthday nine years ago. He was also known for wearing a different t-shirt every day of the festival and for always knowing about every film in the festival. Duke passed away in January 2014, and his absence at the 38th CIFF has been felt.

“He was my high school history teacher, my CIFF cohort, my AFS colleague and a friend,” says Chris Blake, CIFF Vice President of Strategic Planning. “For me, though, and through CIFF, he will forever be tied to Iceland and his love and fascination with that country and its films.”

John Farina, CIFF staff member and longtime friend of Duke, adds: “He always knew about every film in the festival. If a guest had a question about a film, you could always send them to Thom. He always had an opinion about every film.”

Rose DeCapite, a close friend of Duke’s and festival staffer says, “He’s the only person I know who could see all these movies, but that wasn’t the hard part; he remembered them!
 He remembered their names and what they were about.”

“But being a history teacher, he had to remember,” responds her husband, Bill DeCapite. “And many of his students came, and always came to the theater here, and always remembered Thom and talked about how great he was as a teacher.”

Another CIFF staffer, Tim Smith, also remembers Thom as a teacher. “He taught everyone around him about film, about life, about politics, about how to treat people. He was a curmudgeon, but he was also a teddy bear, and he gave to everyone around him.”

Thank you, Thom Duke, for everything you gave to the CIFF and to this world.

—Bridget Kriner and Lara Klaber

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