Thomas Cumiskey, 85, delegate, assistant Cumberland postmaster

September 17, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Thomas B. Cumiskey Jr., a former Maryland House of Delegates member and retired assistant Cumberland postmaster, died Sunday at Memorial Hospital of Cumberland from a head injury suffered in a fall. He was 85.

A lifelong resident of Cumberland, where he attended parochial school, Mr. Cumiskey served in the Army Reserves from 1949 to 1969, earning the rank of major.

He left his job with the U.S. Postal Service in 1972 after 35 years, disgusted, he said, at Nixon administration efforts to reorganize the agency.

Mr. Cumiskey recalled that during a training session at postal headquarters, a private businessman brought in by the administration advised supervisors not to eat lunch with lower-ranked employees.

"I had come from the ranks, and here he was slapping them in the face," Mr. Cumiskey told The Sun in 1994. "I got out the earliest I could. I saw the handwriting on the wall, and I knew they were bringing in a system that was going to alienate a lot of people."

After he left the postal service, his brother-in-law convinced Mr. Cumiskey - much to his wife's disapproval - that he had what it took to be in politics: He was high-energy, outgoing and moral.

"My uncle always said he would have been in Congress if it wasn't for my mother," recalled Mr. Cumiskey's daughter, Katherine Tresselt of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. "All she wanted to do was to have the kids and the family around. She married a postal worker and that's all she wanted."

Mr. Cumiskey, a Democrat, was elected as a delegate in the General Assembly in 1974 and reelected in 1978. He chose not to seek a third term in 1982.

Over the course of his political activism, Mr. Cumiskey worked as chairman of the Cumberland Citizens Advisory Committee and vice chairman of the Allegany County Chapter of American Red Cross.

"Tom lived with the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity consistently in every facet of his life," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a fellow Allegany County Democrat. "My public service with him was a singular blessing for me."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, 125 Fayette St. in Cumberland, where he was a parishioner and tenor in the choir.

His wife of 63 years, the former Helen Stakem, died last year.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Cumiskey is survived by three sons, Thomas B. Cumiskey of Phoenix, Ariz., James Cumiskey of Cumberland and Michael P. Cumiskey of Baltimore; another daughter, Alice Cumiskey of Cumberland; two brothers, William Cumiskey of Kemp, Texas, and Charles Cumiskey of Columbus, Ga; and seven grandchildren.

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