A personal message from Kenwood founder, H. Robb Levinsky…
Dear Kenwood Family;
Kenwood Racing is deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of our founding partners and a beloved friend, Tom Christien, who died on August 2nd, 2017 after a lengthy illness. Affectionately known as “The King”, he was a lifelong personal friend. I first met Tom at Suffolk Downs racecourse in East Boston, Mass. in 1974.. From an early age, Tom had a love of horses and horseracing. He was a smart guy and a clever handicapper. When we first met I was working after school at the track and told him of my plan to start a racing stable. Not many people would have taken that very seriously from a 16 year old, but Tom did. When a few years later, at age 20, I began forming a limited partnership that eventually became ‘Kenwood Stables’ in 1981, Tom was one of the very first people, along with my family, to invest money in the venture. Many years later, I asked him why he invested what was a lot of money at the time in a wild dream of a teenager and in his typical, quiet way he said “I wanted to give you your chance”. That’s exactly the kind of person Tom was, generous and kind while rarely taking credit for something good he did.
Over the years, we shared some memorable successes and some sad moments and failures, but win or lose, Tom never lost faith in our program and was always our biggest supporter. You can see in the photos the joy and sense of comradery we shared with many other friends as part of Kenwood Racing.
I had given Tom the nickname of “The King” many years ago. Tom had a great sense of homor and I think he grew to enjoy the nickname, which led to some hilarious moments. A lot of the Kenwood partners & co-owners called him The King and sometimes total strangers got into the act. One winter he was visiting me in Florida and came directly to the races at Gulfstream Park from his flight. I was sitting in the grandstand waiting for him and said loudly to total strangers sitting nearby, “a friend of mine is coming and his nickname is The King. When he gets here, everybody stand up and bow”. When he arrived a few minutes later I said “The King has arrived!” and at least 50 or more people stood up and started bowing. Tom looked at this sea of strangers bowing to him, took it all in, and calmly said, “you may be seated”.
Everyone associated with Kenwood who met Tom loved him and looked forward to his visits to our base at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. He was also a constant at the OBS horse sales in Ocala, Florida, which we attended every year. Tom was there for the first one we went to, in 1981, and was there for the March sale once again this year.
Tom had a wonderful ability to see the humorous side in almost anything. He could laugh about life and all its craziness, the oddities of the world we live in, about the strange things people did. He could also laugh about himself and his foibles and failings, something very few people can. Tom also had a love of travel and an interest in the world around him. He was very well read, interested in politics and sports and music and books and plays and films. He and his wife Diane traveled together around the country and all over the world.
Toms was shy when first meeting people. He was the greatest guy in the world once you got to know him, but he wasn’t good at the social graces. I would always tell him “Tom, when people get to know you, they really like you” and it was true. Once you got past the initial social niceties and saw the person inside, it was almost impossible not to like Tom because he was funny, he was kind, he had a good heart, and a unique capacity to accept other people with all their failings just as they were, without the negative judgements most people make. He was unfailingly honest and devoted to those who were close to him.
Tom was a unique and unusual man, not the average person in any way, and that’s part of what made him so special and so wonderful. There are a lot of average people out there and most of them are boring. Tom was different, he was fun and funny and a bit of an oddball with a great heart. The Kenwood Racing family is honored to have Tom “The King” Christein as our friend and founding partner.