Distinguished Alumnus
Class of 2015
Thomas F. Monahan
(May 11, 1909 - February 6, 1979)

AHS Class of 1927

Tom was born in Arcola – prematurely – weighing less than 3 pounds. His mother, Lillian, gave him special care as an infant - including being warmed in the kitchen oven “wrapped in swaddling clothes” as he used to say. He was the second and last child – his older sister, Mary, was to look after him, especially in his early days. His father, Thomas F. Monahan, was a mayor of Arcola and a major force in growing the community, a trait both Tom and his sister Mary inherited.

At AHS, Tom played both basketball and football for 3 years; he was the captain of the basketball team his senior year. He was in the Junior and Senior class plays and a member of the Latin and Debate Clubs. He showed his leadership qualities by serving as the Junior and Senior Class President.

He graduated from The University of Notre Dame in 1931, where he played football for the legendary Knute Rockne. A letter to Tom from Coach Rockne, urging him to “put a little meat on that lean frame of yours”, is a family treasure.

After graduation, Tom moved to Chicago and worked there for 4 years, before moving back to Arcola in 1936 to work with his father. Together, they grew The Thomas Monahan Company from one of 15 brokers, working the broomcorn fields of Douglas County in 1939, to becoming the largest broker in the United States. In 1961, under his guidance, The Thomas Monahan Company introduced processed broomcorn to the Industry – an innovation that continues today. He also guided the formation, in 1973, of Handles, Inc., which grew to be the largest US manufacturer of metal handles.

He was known for loyalty to his employees – almost all starting and finishing their careers with the family atmosphere he created at The Thomas Monahan Company.

Tom married 1929 AHS graduate Mary Cunningham on June 29, 1937. They raised four boys, Tim, Pat, Joe and Jim, who married and still call Arcola home. The four families added 31 grandchildren, making Tom and Mary very happy. And those 31 added 58 great-grandchildren.

His industry recognized him as well. He was President of the Broom Supply Dealers Association and Board member of the National Broom and Mop Council. In 1978, he was given a special award by the National Broom and Mop Council at their annual meeting.

Tom was also involved in helping the community, donating to almost every worthwhile local project and offering his time and talent to serve on the City Council and as President of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a founding member the Kaskaskia Country Club and later served there as President. He was proud of his 28 years as a volunteer fireman. He was a lifetime devoted member of St John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Through his investments and guidance, he helped bring the We-Care Nursing Home to Arcola, helped fund a major successful housing development, Arco-Acres, and invested in the Embassy restaurant and bowling alley. He lobbied for the new municipal building, which is in use today.

When Tom bought controlling interest in the First National Bank of Arcola in 1957, it was a major turning point for Arcola. In those days, a community couldn’t grow without a community bank which aided and assisted individuals with their growth plans. Tom, serving as Chairman of the Board, built a winning team, starring Bob King, who helped individuals, the community and the bank to prosper.

Tom was honored at the 1978 Broom Corn Festival with Tom Monahan Day. He was to pass away less than a year later at the fairly young age of 69. A memorial arch, at the entrance to Moore Park, was erected in his honor.

This good man had friends all over central Illinois and the United States from his years in the broom industry and friends he made at Notre Dame. Tom loved Arcola and worked hard to put “Arcola on the map” – one of his stated goals. On his watch, Arcola prospered.

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Last Revision November 11, 2017