grundnerIt was with sadness that I learned of the sudden death of Tom Grundner, author and publisher, on Sunday 11th September 2011.

Tom was a great supporter of historic naval fiction both as an author of the Sir Sidney Smith Nautical Adventure Series and as the Senior Editor of Fireship Press. I have never met him face to face but I regarded him as a friend and I had worked with to bring several new novels into publication. However to limit Tom to this career is to do him an injustice as there was far more to him than naval fiction.

Tom M. Grundner was born on 27 October 1945 in Clawson, Michigan (a small town north of Detroit) and was educated at Clawson High School. He started his university education at the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) where he received his undergraduate degree in psychology. He was a record-breaking wide receiver for EMU and played several seasons in the old Midwestern Professional Football League for the Ann Arbor Vikings and later the Pontiac Firebirds. He earned a masters degree in human learning from the Institute for Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, a second masters in education from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in educational philosophy and psychology, also from USC.

He served in the U.S. Navy rising to the rank of Lt. Commander. Among various assignments, he served a tour in-country Vietnam (call sign "Buddha") doing coastal surveillance and coordinating swift boat patrols in the II Corp region. While there, he won the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V", the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm, Vietnamese Civil Action Honor Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Combat Action Device, and "a bunch of other gee-dunk medals" (as he called them). His time in the navy spawned an interest in the 18th Century British Navy which would be a focus of his career in later life.

He spent the majority of his academic career as a college professor on the faculty of Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, in Cleveland, Ohio. While there, he participated in the development of some of the earliest Internet applications. Indeed, many of the Internet services we now take for granted have their origins in his pioneering pre-World Wide Web work. The Cleveland Free-Net and the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) movement grew out of a 1984 research project conducted by Dr. Grundner, then associated with the university's Department of Family Medicine.

He tested the applicability of delivering community health information with a single telephone line in a system known as St. Silicon's Hospital, where citizens could pose their questions to a board of public health experts and receive answers within twenty-four hours. The popularity of the project attracted financial support from AT&T and the Ohio Bell Company, which funded a larger project. Tom designed a full-scale CMC system as a community information resource for fields far beyond public health alone. The governor of Ohio opened Free-Net in July 1986 and the first phase of the experiment attracted seven thousand registered users and more than five hundred calls a day. In 1989, a new system opened, offering access via 48 telephone lines, including a connection to Case Western Reserve University's fiber-optic network and, eventually, Internet. Other local Free-Nets went online and in 1989, the participating organizations decided to create the NPTN and Dr Grundner served as it's president.

Tom was one of the nation's first newspaper computer columnists, writing a weekly column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer beginning in 1983, and for several years he was a talk show host on radio station WERE in Cleveland. He has received the Alumni Achievement Award from Eastern Michigan University, the Award of Achievement in Education from Northern Ohio LIVE magazine, was selected as an Outstanding Young Man of America by the U.S. Jaycees, and selected as one of the "Eighty-four Most Interesting People in Cleveland" by Cleveland Magazine.

In 1991 he left academia for a stint as the head of a non-profit organization, then, in 1998, in an unusual career move he formed a for-profit company, Marietta Golf Products making custom golf clubs. The success of this business allowed him to devote himself increasingly to his "first love", writing, becoming one the original investors in Fireship Press (he subsequently bought out the others), and his experience as a clubmaker led him to write a series of best-selling golf equipment books with noted golf club designer, Tom Wishon. Search for the Perfect Driver (2006), The Search for the Perfect Golf Club (2005), Ten Things You Thought You Knew About Golf Clubs (2008) and The New Search for the Perfect Golf Club (2011).

In 1995, he was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the "50 Most Influential People in Cyberspace"

His academic books have ranged from the ethics of human experimentation (Informed Consent, 1986), to the problem of Internet porn (The Skinner Box Effect, 2000).

In 2006 he published an edited history of the 18th Century Royal Navy (adapted from Geoffrey Callender's Sea Kings of Britain 1907) called: The Men Who Spoke to Hornblower and in 2007 The Ramage Companion, a companion book to the 18 volume series of historical novels by the British author, Dudley Pope.

At the time of his death he was serving as the "Senior Editor" of Fireship Press, based in Tucson, Arizona, and working on his current major project, a series of novels based on the real-life exploits of Sir Sidney Smith. Book four, Acre, of what he intended to be a nine volume series, was published in June this year.

As he told me in a recent interview the best part was the author's he'd been able to "discover" and bring to market such as Alaric Bond, Linda Collison and Steven E. Maffeo.

I understand it was Tom's wish that Fireship Press would continue and his family and staff will be doing everything possible to continue the tradition of this noble legacy.

He will be greatly missed by all fans of the genre and our thoughts are with his family and colleagues.

Rest in Peace.

© 2008-2024 David Hayes (Astrodene)