TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Tammy Connor received a call on Oct. 5, 2012 that changed her life. While sitting down to eat pizza with her son in Terre Haute, her sister alerted her that emergency crews were headed to her parents Kentucky home, responding to a reported suicide.
"My dad has attempted and completed a suicide," she told us Tuesday, on World Suicide Prevention Day. "It by far is the most devastating thing I've ever been through in my life. He suffered for years with severe depression and it inevitably took his life."
Tom Hagan died on a typical Friday in October, after cutting grass and running errands.
"A neighbor saw him out on the front walk sweeping the driveway at 2:00 p.m. and at 2:30, a coroner pronounced him dead," Connor said.
The stigma that surrounds suicide still haunts Tammy Connor today.
"Talking about it, taking action against it, is something I've chosen to do as a healing process to myself," Connor explained.
" I was not ashamed of my dad in his life and I'm not going to be ashamed of him in his death," Connor said. "The man my dad was. He was always going around the neighborhood helping other people. We learned a lot of that through him, that you help other people."
Hagan was such a well-known community helper, at the end of September his family will receive the Sophia Award from the Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. The award is given to a member of the community known for giving of oneself to others.
That's where TOM, Team of Mercy, came in. The acronym of course connects the organization back to it's origin, the life and death of Tom Hagan.
TOM is the brainchild of Tammy Connor, who came up with the idea within months of her father's death.
The idea is to helps the survivors left behind after a suicide. The immediate hours following the death are difficult and often overwhelming. But it's not just the support Connor will offer.
In her father's death, she learned of an aspect of suicide rarely mentioned, which is the biohazard clean up. Connor knows the issue all to well now. After her father's death, her family was charged $8,000 for a company to come in an remove carpets and baseboards that were permanently damaged by the death. After that, the family paid to replace the removed items with new. It was a cost no one saw coming.
"It's not something you even think that's not taken care of for you," Connor shared. "It's not something you go out and get a quote or an estimate on. You just want it done."
The only other option besides paying for it to be completed is for the family to do it on their own. Connor told News 10 statistics show Post Traumatic Stress and additional problems are nearly 300% more likely if a family has to clean up on their own.
TOM has that covered as well. The organization is working on a partnership with Rogers Home Improvements out of Terre Haute. The company plans to work with TOM to help get families what they need in those crucial hours.
It's still early on for the organization. They've submitted their "501-C-3" paperwork to the IRS to make them a full non-profit, but they're waiting to hear back. Until then, they've got the ball rolling on other works.
A t-shirt sale now is the first of many efforts to raise money. They're selling t-shirts in support of TOM for $12. If you're interested in ordering, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 855-225-5550. The organization's mailing address is P.O. Box 10931 Terre Haute, Indiana 47801.
The organization is also planning a Fall season scavenger hunt and a golf outing for the future.
For Connor, this is the first of many steps in keeping her father's memory alive for all of the right reasons.
"I want to help others, and that's very healing to me."
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