Death of Grosse Pointe Woods City Councilman Thomas Vaughn is ‘a tremendous loss’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 21, 2024

 Thomas Vaughn

Thomas Vaughn

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Intelligent. Upbeat. Caring. Humble. Successful. Energetic. Family-oriented. These are just some of the words that those who knew him used to describe Grosse Pointe Woods City Councilman Thomas Vaughn, who died May 11 at the age of 68 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer.

“It’s a tremendous loss for our city and for our residents,” said Woods City Councilwoman Vicki Granger, who considered Vaughn a friend and knew him and his family for many years. “I will miss him a lot. I know a lot of other people will, too. He leaves a legacy of excellence.”

Vaughn was appointed to fill a council vacancy in March 2021, but his service to the Woods started in 1983. Among the tasks he took on were serving on the city’s Senior Citizens’ Commission and later the Planning Commission, where he was recognized in April 2021 for 20 years of service.

A native of the Grosse Pointes, Vaughn attended Our Lady Star of the Sea School and Austin Catholic Preparatory School. He graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with both his Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctor degrees and started working for the Detroit office of the Dykema law firm in 1980, where he spent the next 44 years until his recent retirement. Routinely ranked as one of the top lawyers in Michigan and the United States, he was a member of Dykema’s Corporate Finance Group and served as co-chair of its mergers and acquisitions group until 2023. Vaughn received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Corporate Growth of Detroit during its ninth annual mergers and acquisitions awards event May 6 at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

“(He’s) one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known — very smart, very hardworking, a man of great integrity,” Granger said.

Grant Gilezan was not only a neighbor of Vaughn’s, but also a longtime Planning Commission colleague, friend and fellow law partner at Dykema.

“Tom was just a stellar corporate law practitioner, and he was just a pillar of our Detroit office,” Gilezan said. “Regardless of what your (field of) practice was, he’d be willing to help and mentor.”

Despite his dedication to his job and clients, Gilezan said Vaughn was extremely devoted to his family as well.

“Nothing lit that guy up (like) … talking about his family,” Gilezan said.

Granger remembers Vaughn’s family-oriented nature as well.

“When the kids were smaller, you’d see the whole family riding bikes to the park,” Granger said.

Gilezan said Vaughn was a man of integrity, humility, passion and tremendous energy.

“Despite the crush of the loss, it is very easy to celebrate (his) life,” Gilezan said.

Mayor Arthur Bryant said Vaughn maintained his upbeat nature, even as he quietly battled cancer.

“He was a very successful guy in his role as a lawyer,” Bryant said. “He was also very good on council. He was a person who got into the details and worked through the problems.”

City Councilman Todd McConaghy bonded with fellow attorney Vaughn, whom he considered a friend as well as a colleague. He said Vaughn had a great eye for detail.

“Tom was a very astute attorney,” McConaghy said. “He brought his skills as an attorney to the council, and the city is better for it.”

Grosse Pointe Park City Councilman Martin McMillan served on a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, or SEMCOG, board with Vaughn.

“What a perfect gentleman and a tremendous guy,” McMillan said of Vaughn during a May 13 Park City Council meeting. “There aren’t many Tom Vaughns in the world. He’s truly going to be missed.”

Vaughn’s death is the latest tragic loss for the Woods in recent years. Former Mayor and Councilman Robert Novitke — who served the city for more than 40 years and for whom the municipal complex is now named — died in March 2021 at the age of 74. Former Councilman George McMullen — whose seat Vaughn was named by the council to fill — died in December 2020 at the age of 63, after his own battle with pancreatic cancer.

Vaughn is survived by his wife of 44 years, Patti Krausmann-Vaughn, their four children — Catherine Vaughn-Gillman, Cecelia Forinash, Patrick Vaughn and Audrey Vaughn — as well as six grandchildren and five siblings. His funeral was held May 20 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Grosse Pointe Woods. Instead of flowers, his family requested donations to any of the following: Grosse Pointe Woods Foundation, The Kirk Gibson Foundation for Parkinson’s or Regina High School.