Chicago YCW organizer and elderly advocate Thomas Laughlin

posted 13 Aug 2010, 07:40 by Stefan Gigacz
Thomas Crofton Laughlin, a passionate advocate for the elderly in Louisiana and a former Chicago YCW organizer, has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 80.

A statewide leader known as the "godfather of the aging," Mr. Laughlin was able to recite details of geriatric law and convene people to work for better quality of life for a vulnerable population. Howard Rodgers, executive director of the New Orleans Council on Aging, said Mr. Laughlin inspired and served as a mentor to many, NOLA reports.

Mr. Laughlin, who until recently served as chief executive of the state's largest aging council, never stopped working. He would help senior citizens at the grocery store, and use the opportunity to find more comprehensive services for them. He also took in homeless people and helped them find jobs.

Mr. Laughlin had a warm, disarming sense of humor. Gordon Wadge, who served on Mr. Laughlin's board as co-president of Catholic Charities in New Orleans, arrived for a meeting one day and noticed that Mr. Laughlin had bullethole decals all over his car. Mr. Laughlin laughed, and explained that he wanted to look intimidating in the many rough neighborhoods in which he worked.

Born in New Orleans in 1930, Mr. Laughlin grew up in Covington as one of four siblings and attended Saint Paul's School. After his junior year, he left to join the Order of the Christian Brothers, working throughout Louisiana and in New Mexico for six years.

Mr. Laughlin received a degree in education at Loyola University in New Orleans in 1954, which fueled his interest in social justice work. After serving for two years in the Army at Fort Hood, Texas, Mr. Laughlin returned to Loyola to earn a master's degree in guidance and counseling in 1958.

Upon graduation, Mr. Laughlin moved to Chicago to work as an organizer for the YCW.

Monisgnor Winus Roeten, a diocesan priest in River Ridge who met Mr. Laughlin through YCW, said that Mr. Laughlin's work with young people in Chicago helped prepare him for his ultimate work with the elderly. "The people who got that kind of experience have a formation of personal and social consciousness that most people lack," Roeten said.

Mr. Laughlin had an enormous family that was extended by his work. He is survived by his sister, Hilda Suzanne Laughlin Kirsch; five nieces; 11 nephews; 11 grandnieces and 12 grandnephews; two great-grandnieces and two great-grandnephews.