Thomas Gilchrist Allen III, 81, of Amherst, N.Y., husband of 56 years to Anne Smither Allen, passed away on December 6, 2012 in Amherst. An entrepreneur, boat builder, champion sailor and a passionate lover of the Buffalo Canoe Club and his summer home in Bay Beach, Ontario, Tom will be remembered for his uncanny ability to build and sail boats. He attended the Nichols School in Buffalo. He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Albion College and graduated in 1953, followed by two years in the Navy where he was a member of the swimming team. In 1961 he founded the Allen Boat Company in Buffalo, N.Y. where he built sailboats, but most notably, the Lightning class sailboat. Initially, his boats were built of wood but over time their construction switched to fiberglass. He became the largest manufacturer of the Lightning class boat in the world. At the time of his passing Tom was still affiliated with the Allen Boat Company, which is now run by his son, Thomas Allen. Tom’s sailing record is legendary. Over the span of his life he has won four Lightning World Championships, eight North American Lightning Championships, a Flying Dutchman North American Championship, the Albacore Nationals, a gold and silver medal in the Pan American Games, and was an alternate member of the U.S. Olympic Team in the Flying Dutchman class for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. He has won so many races that it is difficult to portray the extent of his success. His success was also a partnership. His wife Anne, who also grew up sailing at Bay Beach, was his lifetime crew sailing with him every step of the way in the Lightning. Racing the Lightning, they traveled throughout Europe and South America. In 1961 he was awarded the March of Dimes Award for Sport as well as the Buffalo Athletic Club’s Athlete of the Year. Tom served as Commodore of the Buffalo Canoe Club in 1985. In 1996 Tom was the first sailor to be inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. And in 2007 he was honored by being awarded a life membership in the Lightning Class. Tom’s love of sailing has had a profound influence on his entire family. The fact that everyone, right down to the youngest grandchild, is involved in sailing brought him great pride and joy.
Tom is survived by his wife, partner and crew, Anne Smither Allen, and his four children; Jane Allen (Canton, MI), Brenda Crane (Darien, CT.), Thomas Allen (Kenmore, N.Y.), and James Allen (Walled Lake, MI). A sister, Joan Armour, survives him. He also leaves behind six grandchildren; Robert, Kelly, Shelby, Karl, Tyler and Abby.
A celebration of his life will be held Sat Dec 15, at 10:30 in St Paul’s Lutheran Church, 4007 Main St., Amherst, N.Y. 14226. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the International Lightning Class Association or another organization of your choice. http://www.lightningclass.org/. Arrangements by John E. Roberts Funeral Home.
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