It was fitting then that at a golf tournament played in his honor Aug. 14, Mickey Mouse, Goofy and 2-year-old Kelly Mosser were in attendance. Alas, it was also fitting that three or four FBI agents were there.
I didn't know Mr. Mosser. In fact, I had never heard of the Young & Rubicam Inc. exec VP until I read about his death from a Unabomber mail bomb Dec. 10, 1994.
But my editors wanted to show their support for his family and the foundation that has been set up in his name. So they sent me to play in the Tom Mosser Charity Golf Tournament at the Alpine Country Club in Alpine, N.J.
Golf outings I've played have typically been either excuses for a big group to have fun on a workday or fund-raisers. Either way, they have tended to be cheerful events. I was curious to see what the atmosphere would be like at this outing, which was a fund-raiser but also in a way an outdoor memorial service.
Most of the golfers arrived early, for a little practice or just to loosen up. Some arrived early so they could wait in line at the pay phone in the men's locker room to do some work.
The event was a shotgun scramble, which meant 72 carts-36 foursomes-lined up at the first tee for instructions and the signal to depart for their assigned starting tees. Most of the golfers were men, but I spotted about a half-dozen women. Among the participants were two of Mr. Mosser's children, Kim and Tim, and his widow, Susan.
As tournament organizer Herb Karlitz would relate at dinner, the event had been undersubscribed at the beginning of August. At that time, he made a call to Bob Igiel, exec VP-broadcast programming at Y&R, and Mr. Igiel got on the phone. Within days the tourney was oversubscribed.
Each group had a caddy to find balls and offer some local know-ledge of the course. Our group drew Bobby, a young man from River Vale, N.J., who told us while we waited at our first tee about his plans to start an aloe farm in the Bahamas. His family had roots there, he said, and he could grow better aloe there than farmers in Texas or Mexico. He had done his research and knew how other aloe farmers had hit it big. The plant has a burgeoning number of uses, Bobby told us.
Matt Steinfeld, a CBS account executive and one of my three partners, joined the conversation late and said, "Yeah, people drink aloe nowadays."
"Exactly," said Bobby. "That's what I'm talking about."
With that, we started off. I hadn't played golf in two months, and I hadn't hit a good drive in even longer. But I cracked a good one down the middle on the opening tee, which got our group off to a good start. (In a scramble, each player hits and then the group selects the best shot, and each hits again from there.)
Dan Hahn, a media buyer from Y&R, lofted a soft wedge within 3 feet of the hole on our approach shot and then knocked in the short putt to give us a birdie on the first hole of the day.
We played well but not spectacularly the rest of the day, scoring four more birdies and two bogeys for a gross of three-under-par 69. The rules allowed us a handicap of half of our foursome's best player's handicap. Chris Simon, group VP-sales for CBS, is a 12, so we got six strokes, which lowered our score to 63. That put us seven shots back of the winners.
None in our group had known Mr. Mosser, and the talk was mostly cheery and casual.
The whole day was festive, with some serious moments. During the cocktail hour, I met a number of people who had known Mr. Mosser well. Most are still shocked by his death and talked at length about what a good friend and mentor he had been.
"He was an inspiration to a whole generation of us in PR," said one young executive.
What most impressed me was that even those who hadn't known Mr. Mosser were awed by how many people had so many good things to say about him.
After dinner, Mrs. Mosser approached the podium to speak publicly about her husband for the first time since his death. As the crowd hushed, she began by talking about her own uneasiness about how the day would turn out. But the outpouring of goodwill and generosity she had seen during the day, she said, was important evidence that there remains more good than evil in the world.
(The goal of the event was to raise $100,000 for the Thomas J. Mosser Foundation, the North Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department and the West Essex Police Benevolent Association. The final tally isn't in yet, but since every golfing spot and hole sponsorship was sold, organizers are hopeful they will get close.)
She ended by thanking the crowd for showing her husband's children how much he was loved and respected.
After that, comedian Henny Youngman came out to give a mostly tasteful, sometimes funny monologue. As I headed out to the driveway and waited for the valet to bring around my car, I thought about the day.
It had been a good day, a fun day, and for various people and charities an enriching day. But somehow I had felt something was missing. By now it had become clear that it was someone who was missing, only he wasn't really missing. And that, I think, is the point.