Tom Foley passes

Dr. Thomas P. Foley, known to his friends as Tom, has died following a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 83 years of age.

A Virginia native, Tom made his career in medicine in Pennsylvania, where he had most recently served as Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He had been named several times as among The Best Doctors in America, along with numerous awards for his clinical research.

But Tom was also an avid bluegrass musician, a guitarist, who led The Allegheny River Boys in Pittsburgh for many years. He was also deeply involved with The Pittsburgh Press in organizing the Annual Press Old Newsboys Benefit Bluegrass Concerts, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Children’s Hospital.

The Allegheny River Boys started performing in the 1970s, and continued to be active until the past few years when Tom was unable to play. They are remembered throughout the region for their many appearances at festivals and shows. Tom also hosted house concerts at his home with top bluegrass touring acts, some of whom became his friends. His pickin’ parties are likewise viewed as legendary by the local grassers.

Tom will be fondly recalled by many in the fields of medicine and music, and for his many philanthropic and humanitarian efforts. John Starling of Seldom Scene fame was a friend in medical school, which they remained until John’s passing.

Friends say that he never lost his southern charm, even after moving north. He was a special fan of the Stanley Brothers, and a great admirer of Carter Stanley’s singing. Tom was also deeply proud to own a 1943 Martin D-28, which he always played on stage.

Here is a track The Allegheny River Boys recorded with Gene Elders in 1978. It’s a bluegrass arrangement of St. Thomas, a jazz classic from Sonny Rollins, which was very forward thinking for bluegrass circles in the late ’70s.

Services will be held this Sunday, January 24, at Christ Community Church in State College at 3:00 p.m. (EST). For those leery of attending in person, a live stream will be available on YouTube. The family is planning a larger Celebration of Life this summer once COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

R.I.P., Tom Foley.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.