Tom Kirwan, a former trainer/driver who spent nearly 30 years as the stall superintendent at The Meadows, passed away on Friday, January 27, 2017 at the age of 70.
Kirwan, of Meadow Lands, Pennsylvania, was the grandson of Michael J. Kirwan, a longtime United States Senator from Youngstown, Ohio. Tom was raised by his parents, John and Ruth, in the Washington, DC area.
In the fall of 1964, at the age of 18, Tom came to Western Pennsylvania to visit his aunt and uncle, Michael and Jewel Kirwan. During that visit, the Kirwans took a trip to The Meadows for an evening of harness racing, and Tom was hooked.
Through an ad in the newspaper, he discovered that trainer George Beinhauer was looking for barn help, and he took his first job as a caretaker soon after.
“Flaky,” as Tom was known, worked for the Beinhauer Stable for several years, living at the Beinhauer’s Von Valley Farm. He started driving horses in 1966 at The Meadows and around the Pennsylvania fair circuit.
In 1976, he took a job for horseowner Ed Ryan, who was starting his own stable after racing horses with Beinhauer.
Kirwan became the Ryan Stable’s main trainer and driver. During the 1970s through the early 1980s, he drove 453 winners and was one of the Meadows’ leading drivers.
In the late 1980s, when Ryan was a co-owner of The Meadows, Kirwan transitioned from the barn to the race office. He took over as the track’s stall superintendent, a position he held for three decades until his retirement in 2015.
Away from the track, Tom loved cheeseburgers and playing poker.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, who works in the paddock at The Meadows, and his mother, Ruth, along with three sisters and six brothers.
***UPDATE*** There will be a memorial service celebrating Tom’s life on Friday, February 3 at 1PM in The Meadows’ Track Chapel. A luncheon will follow in the paddock.