In Memoriam: Thomas J. Cavey, 71

31-Year Career at Chase

Tom Cavey died of a massive heart attack on August 11, 2011, having suffered a stroke in late 2010.  He was living in Westlake Village, CA.

Born on March 22, 1940 in Brooklyn, he graduated from Fordham University in 1962 with a degree in finance.

He worked at Chase from 1965 to 1996, in the United States and the United Kingdom, in audit credit policy and audit, risk management, regional banking, private banking, investment services, real estate finance, North American corporate banking, the international department and credit management.

He and his wife, Alice, later lived in Indonesia and Singapore.  Paid-up CAA members can click here for an article Tom wrote for the CAA newsletter in 2001, describing life in Singapore.

Tom was very active in his church and was in the Divine Mercy prayer group. He is survived by his wife, his daughters Nicole and Christina,and his son Dan (wife Stacy).

Memorial contributions should be sent to Fordham Preparatory School, East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458 (attention:

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Colleagues are invited to share reminiscences.  Please send your comments to

From Eric W. P. Hasselman: I first met Tom in the mid-1960s when we were both in the Chase Credit Department at 1CMP7. He was then about 24-25 years old and a "Credit Specialist" and expert on construction companies and real estate. He was very knowledgeable and approachable. If I would get stuck on a credit analysis, he would be the first to help me out, which I much appreciated.
     After some years, we were both assigned to London as Area Credit Officers, where we were not only good colleagues but good friends. My family was close with him, his wife, Alice, and their two children, a daughter and a son. After 30 years at Chase, I joined American Express Bank and, when the late 1990s Asian crisis occurred, my first thought was to hire Tom to become the Chief Workout Officer for Asia/Pacific based in Indonesia. I was also able to get Larry Potts as Tom's deputy.
     Tom's work in Asia, particularly on Indonesian loans, was spectacular. He became head of virtually every workout consortium in the country and collected hundreds of millions of dollars for American Express Bank and the many other foreign banks involved at the time. 
     Tom loved Indonesia very much and became an expert on exotic silk, rare wood and teak furniture. When I would visit Indonesia, I would never leave without loads of silk, wood objects and other items he talked me into.
     We both retired in 2000-2001, and Tom moved with his family to the West Coast. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy good health and had various lingering illnesses that kept him in California while his heart was in Indonesia.
     Tom was an outstanding banker, very intelligent and resourceful, and - most importantly - he was a personable and devoted friend. I will miss his wisdom and friendship.

From Gene Berry:  I was very saddened to hear about the passing of Tom Cavey. In all my years at the bank, Tom Cavey was one of the most professional bankers, critical thinkers and effective mentors that I have ever met.
      After the training program, I joined the Corporate Bank for my first lending assignment, Tom was my team leader. Tom had just been named the recipient of the Presidential Award along with Ed Henderson for their highly profitable transaction with First Mississippi Corp. I knew I would learn a great deal about banking and the lending business from Tom.
      On my first-ever customer call, which Tom said was just a routine visit, the CEO of the company asked for an increase in their line. Tom hesitated for a moment, gave that characteristic “Thinker” pose and calmly informed him that, in fact, we were canceling his facility! On that same trip, we were stranded in St. Louis by a heavy snowstorm. We spent half of Thanksgiving Day eating crackers and peanuts at an airport lounge, waiting to return to Newark. My first business trip was somewhat unusual, but little did I know that in the years to follow we would accomplish major business success with our clients and generate a long list of memorable travel experiences.
      I could recount many, many fabulous customer and traveling stories about our time together, as well as numerous social occasions that my wife and I enjoyed with Alice and Tom. BUT there is one story that always tops the list.
     As usual, Tom and I attended an annual event hosted by Monsanto Corporation for their line banks. This particular year the conference was held in New Orleans. It was a very informative session and Monsanto asked us to increase the level of our lending commitments. At the conclusion of the conference, we planned to drive to the airport, return our rental car and board a Delta Airlines flight back to New York.
     We were running slightly behind schedule when we actually started our drive to the airport. We also had to make a stop along the way that delayed us even more. Finally, we were on our way. After driving down the highway for 10 minutes, Tom realized that we had been given incorrect directions and we were headed the wrong way. The airport was in the opposite direction.
     We were now in serious trouble. Tom did his best to imitate a racecar driver and, with minutes to spare, we arrived at the airport. He threw the keys on the seat of the rental car and we carried our bags into the terminal and up to the Delta counter to check in for our Delta flight to New York. The ticket agent, feeling our anxiety, took our bags, checked us in and told us to go to the gate, all in record time.    

     Now here is where Tom and I have never agreed on the story. He claims that the Delta agent told us Gate D-7. I heard her say Gate C-7. The C and D gates in the New Orleans airport are in different directions. At this point, we were running. Tom was in no shape to argue, so down to Gate C-7 we ran. The trip to Gate 7 was a long one, and when we finally arrived they told us in a somewhat panicked tone just to board the plane. No one asked us for our tickets. They closed the door behind us, and we plopped into two seats—first class by the way. The plane left the jetway, taxied to the runway, and we were in the air within minutes.
     Neither of us was in good shape, but Tom was gulping for air. After a few minutes, I looked at Tom and there was panic in his eyes. He was doing his best to catch his breath after our fast and furious run to the gate. He kept pointing to the bulkhead, and all I could make out was, ”Gene, the bird”.  Yes, of course, he had immediately recognized that the Eastern bird logo was on the bulkhead.
     We had boarded an Eastern Airlines plane – not a Delta plane. Destination – unknown.
     Well, we had wanted to go to JFK in New York – and the Eastern plane was going to JFK in New York. The Eastern terminal was a short walk and a hop over a concrete barricade to the Delta terminal – and, as we entered the Delta terminal and baggage claim area, our bags were coming down the turnstile!
     Multiply this experience many times over and you can see why Tom was not only a great boss, but also great friend.
     The planet is less rich with his passing.
     My prayers and deepest sympathies to Alice and her family for their loss.

From Larry Potts: Tom and I used to eat lunch together at least once a week, in the Chase cafeteria, with a guy named Ed Destafanis from the workout Division.  And of course Tom and I worked closely together in Jakarta trying to get Amex's money back.  We used to joke that the lenders could either invite us to join the workout committee, or we'd shoot our way in and take it over.  We were on every important committee in Indonesia, we drove most of them, and we did a bunch of other separate recoveries on our own. 
     I was always impressed by his inquiring mind and his breadth of knowledge on such a variety of topics.  He was a ham radio operator, and he read a wide selection of space, astronomy, history and popular mechanics publications.  We had some long and interesting discussions.

From Ed Moran: I must admit that I haven't thought about Tom in quite a while but when I do, it's with a smile. He was a decent and warm human being with a humble demeanor. I too first met him when I was going through the trial by terror of the "Bear's" credit training (sorry Bill). Tom's sunny disposition was always a welcome change whenever I ventured into the back room lair of the credit specialists. Our paths crossed frequently in the following years in the corporate, real estate and workout areas. A good man. Rest in peace.

From Dennis Longwell: Tom was one of the Bank's most conscientious and fair minded guys, and a great help to me in the UK.

From Ken Gentile: Tom was a a well respected professional with whom I enjoyed working.  I am deeply grieved on his passing and extend my deepest sympathies to his family.

From Marion B. Rendon: Lou Zircher and Tom Cavey, along with Ed Destefanis, also deceased, were members of a group who played bridge after lunch at 1CMP. Those were fun moments in a busy day. I realize now that Joyce Fox and I were the only women playing!!

From John Ward: I knew Tom for almost 30 years. We worked together in Area Credit in London, and he played a significant role in helping me to transition from Trade Banking to becoming the Credit Supervising Officer. Tom had extensive knowledge of various industries and a fine analytical mind, which allowed him to be very decisive and efficient in approving credits. He played a key role in helping the Country Credit Officers better understand their portfolios through his insights at the Area Credit meetings and his in country portfolio reviews. On the lighter side, he felt that the menu at the Area Credit dinners was not up to standards. He developed a new menu which included profiteroles. He would shake his tie just thinking about them, and this almost became a secret handshake for the credit officers. Of course, the improved menu allowed us to have an extra port or two.
     After London we went our separate ways, but we had the opportunity to work together again at the American Express Bank where he was the Chief Workout Officer for the Asia/Pacific Area. Tom did an outstanding job again and played a key role as the head of the many workout committees in Indonesia, which allowed us to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign currency loans.
     I will miss Tom and want to extend my deepest sympathies to Alice and the children.

From David Weisbrod: I learned so much from Tom over the years. He was one of the Bank's finest credit officers. We worked closely together in Credit Audit where so many of the young analysts looked up to him. A consummate professional, he contributed in so many ways. I will miss his presence and extend my condolences to Alice and the family.