Sensei Thomas (Tom) Wirtanen 1953-2019

Sensei Thomas "Tom" Wirtanen passed away peacefully on July 27th, at the young age of 66. Sensei Tom grew up in Chelmsford MA and attended the Ohio State University. It was there he was introduced to Matsubayashi karate. He graduated summa cum laude, became a lawyer and returned to Massachusetts where he taught karate at the local YMCA to make ends meet. He taught many students but only two continued: Sensei James True and Sensei Mike Pepe. Sensei Tom is credited with founding our American Shorin-Ryu karate in Massachusetts in the mid-70s. Sensei Tom was an accomplished singer and songwriter in the bluegrass/Americana style. His band played local venues in Massachusetts, Ohio and even Alaska. His love for Alaska drove him to write a song about the State titled O'Alaska. Many of his songs can still be found on Youtube. He was a well-known local attorney for 40 years. An avid fisherman and gardener, Tom enjoyed going to Alaska every year to sing and fish Sockeye salmon. Back in Lowell he produced the long running Brookside Garden show on the local cable channel and he received a lifetime achievement award from the Lowell Telemedia Center. He was a long-standing member of Stony Brook Fish and Game as well as Election Commissioner for the City of Lowell. Sensei Tom was posthumously promoted to the rank of 8th degree black belt for the knowledge, love and spirit he gave to all he encountered. "Ichi-go ichi-e."

Sensei Wirtanen was escorted to his resting place by 8 pallbearers who were his close martial art students and friends each wearing full karate uniforms and belts then later at a gathering of his friends and family, many stood and recounted a memorial story about their friend Tom. Sensei Tom leaves his wife two children, Kristin and Tommy, grandchildren and many, many friends. His full obituary can be found at