The family of Tommy Makem has donated two rare and valuable letters to Milwaukee Irish Fest to be added to the existing Tommy Makem Collection in the Ward Irish Music Archives (WIMA). The first is a letter from President Bill Clinton to Tommy, dated June 11, 2001, congratulating Tommy on the celebration of his Golden Jubilee as an internationally known folk singer/songwriter. The second letter is from Irish President Mary McAleese to the Makem family, dated August 2, 2007, one day after Tommy passed away. This letter expresses her condolences and fond memories of Tommy and his contributions to Irish culture.
WIMA has other rare items that were donated by Tommy, including an Aran knit sweater worn by him when he toured with the Clancy Brothers. His original five-string banjo is on loan to the Archives as well. Tommy was especially close to his friends at Milwaukee Irish Fest, where he appeared at 22 out of the 27 festivals between its origination and his passing.
Milwaukee Irish Fest has created a special Tommy Makem Cultural Legacy Fund, set up to honor Tommy and his longstanding passion and contributions to Irish music and culture. The goal of this fund is to raise $50,000. Once this target is reached, Milwaukee Irish Fest will award an annual grant or scholarship that promotes a living legacy of Irish music and culture. The Tommy Makem Cultural Legacy Fund is already two-thirds of the way to its goal. Anyone interested in supporting this fund can get more information or donate online or by calling the Milwaukee Irish Fest Center at 414-476-3378.