From his training at a private art school in Washington, D.C., in seventh and eighth grade, electrical training while in the U.S. Navy, to his skills as a carpenter, sharpener of vintage hand saws and maker and restorer of Civil War drums, Law was known far and wide for his talents.
“He was multitalented with multiple interests. You’d think any one of them would have been enough,” said Tom’s oldest brother, Preston E. “Toby” Law Jr. of Hagerstown.
“They started intertwining. His woodworking led to the Civil War drums,” said wife Sandra Law of Smithsburg.
The demand for Tom’s services sharpening hand saws was so great that he had to discontinue that work. He also crafted wooden jewelry boxes and picture frames, restored old tools and wooden pieces discarded or purchased at auction, collected old hand tools, including 300 hand saws, and wrote for a home-building magazine.
Tom was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Great Falls, Va., the third of Preston E. Law Sr. and Gertrude Law’s four children. The youngest died of rheumatic fever when he was 8 or 9.
In time, the couple divorced. Preston Sr. remarried when Tom was 12. He and his second wife had four sons, whom Tom considered part of a large extended family.
Toby said Maxine Rajkovich, who was a commercial artist and did some cartooning for Disney, was the “benefactor aunt.” She is the one who recognized Tom’s artistic talent and paid for him to attend art school.
Toby said Tom had a round pot belly as a toddler. Maxine would thump his belly as though it were a drum, so she called him Tom-Tom, perhaps a precursor to his interest in drums.
After graduating from Fairfax (Va.) High School, Tom served in the U.S. Navy for four years, where he learned the skills to be an electrician. He was determined to be the most capable person to cut hair on board the aircraft carrier and learned from practice.
Following his Navy years, Tom was unable to find a job as an electrician, so he studied to be a journeyman carpenter, which led to a 50-year career as a carpenter, cabinetmaker and home builder. Although he was not a licensed barber, Tom worked as a barber in McLean, Va., while in carpentry school.
Each chapter in Tom’s life seemed to lead to another new skill and more connections.
“He had a lot of interesting, in fact, spectacular coincidences in his life,” Toby said.
Toby said his brother was proud to count the children of Robert F. Kennedy, before he had risen in the political ranks, as his clients. The Kennedys lived in Langley, Va., at the time.
Toby said their family originally is from Scotland and around the time of the Revolution, moved to the United States and settled in New England before heading south. Their great-great-grandfather was from Georgia, great-grandfather from Alabama and their father, Preston Sr., settled in Texas, then moved to the Washington, D.C., area during the Depression and worked as a railroad engineer.
While Tom was aboard ship in the Navy, a Turkish group came on board. Toby said Tom was dressed in period costume with a group of fife and drummers. It was at that point he decided he’d learn to drum.
In 1972, Tom’s interest in Civil War re-enacting led to his involvement with the Harts Battery Company B. Toby said the extended family got interested in re-enacting and had enough members to start their own team.
They chose their great-grandfather’s unit, the 3rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry, and competed in black powder shooting competitions. In 1988, Tom got involved with the 21st Georgia living history re-enactment group.
Tom was 40 when he started drumming, one of the oldest students of John Bosworth, who was well-known in the Baltimore/D.C. area, and who played for dignitaries.