It was spring, and it was a bright, sunny, and hot day in Manhattan. I’d traveled into the city from my New Jersey home to meet up with DoubleTree executives, representatives from the PR firm DalyGray, and, of course, Tom Wingham, the longtime director of global brand public relations for DoubleTree by Hilton, who was always omnipresent when I, as a reporter, did a story on DoubleTree. So, it was a sad evening last night as I communicated with several of my colleagues in the trade press about the shocking and sudden passing of Tom yesterday.
He was universally known as the go-to man for all things DoubleTree, and there is certain to be a void in my dealings with the brand for quite sometime. You see, Tom wasn’t just a PR representative to the press, he went that extra step, mainly due to his naturally friendly personality, and became friends with many of us. He was not only a seasoned professional but also an even better person.
Although it wasn’t the last time I saw Tom, my memories of him today are of that day in New York City. DoubleTree was kicking off its tour of the nation with the DoubleTree by Hilton Cookie CAREavan, a summer-long promotion in which he and others with DoubleTree drove around the country donating the brand’s signature chocolate chip cookies to community groups and the public upon the iconic treat’s anniversary. It was an award-winning campaign led by Tom, and a fun one at that—take it from someone who shared more than a few of those cookies that day with Tom and the DoubleTree crew.
That cookie promotion was definitely a feather in his cap as a professional, but over the years that I have been editor of Lodging, I’ve relied on Tom for more information than I can possibly have stored in all of my notes. Whether it was a new opening of a DoubleTree on the horizon or a good source for nearly any feature article I asked him about, Tom always had the answer and pointed me in the right direction.
I know there are many people in the industry who have had a longer and closer relationship with Tom—he’d been in the industry for a quarter of a century. While yesterday was sad, it was nice to see the outpouring of emotions by so many of those industry people via social media and e-mail. I’m sure the Hilton family is hurting after the loss of Tom. He will be missed by many of us in the lodging industry.