Thane J. Fake, who died Sept. 13 after battling cancer, spent nearly two decades working for the United States Department of Justice. Fake, who attended Penn State University in the 1990s, later received a public service award from the university.
Thane Fake first met Patrick Peregoy when Peregoy was working at O’Lordan’s Irish Pub in Westminster.
And while initially a meeting between customer and employee, the relationship grew to be a years-long friendship.
“Thane was a regular customer who was involved in politics, loved food and always had a way of bettering me as a person, as a chef and as a citizen to my community,” Peregoy, of Finksburg, told the Times via Facebook.
But what Peregoy holds close to him, is that in 2008, Fake stepped up and helped Peregoy change his life, something he’ll never forget.
In 2008, he said, he got a DUI on St. Patrick’s Day, and “knew that I needed to make some changes.” Fake, along with other regulars at O’Lordan’s, helped Peregoy in his decision to go to college for culinary arts, and from there, the friendship continued to grow.
Ask anyone who knew him and they’ll tell you — Fake made a huge impact on their life. He was one of the best people they knew. And he was always there.
Fake, 46, of Westminster, died Thursday, Sept. 13, after a long-fought battle with cancer. Fake was born in York, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1972. He eventually attended public school in Carroll, including the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, and graduated from Westminster High School in 1990.
“Getting to know Thane through my work at the Irish Pub was great,” Peregoy said. “We often talked about food, we talked about bettering our communities and we discussed and debated politics on a regular basis. It was a pleasure to have met, prepared food for and with and get to know my friend Thane Fake.”
A life of public service
Fake spent almost 20 years working for the U.S. Department of Justice, most recently working as an emergency management specialist, according to his obituary. Fake received a degree in public service from Penn State University in 1998, and in 1999, he received a presidential appointment under President Bill Clinton as staff assistant to then Attorney General Janet Reno.
Fake also served as a political affairs intern as well as a presidential correspondence intern, and was a volunteer for the Clinton/Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996, according to the obituary.
But he was more than all of his work in the federal government.
Lindsay Stetson, of Hampstead, was friends with Fake for 15 years. She worked first at Johanssons Dining House, and then O’Lordan’s Irish Pub, which is where she met him.
“Thane was a bar fly; that’s how I met him originally,” she said.
Local restaurants and their regulars are like big families, she said, and Fake became part of the group. But before long, Stetson said, the two became fast friends.
“He’s been a big part of my life,” she added.
A valiant battle
Fake was sick for more than four years, and was diagnosed in February 2014. Stetson said she was with Fake working on his house on a cold day, and he was coughing a lot. He thought he was sick, maybe with pneumonia or something minor.
“He went to the doctor and he wasn't just sick — well, he was sick, but not with a cold,” she said.
Instead, Fake was diagnosed with nonsmall-cell lung cancer. The cancer was caused by a genetic mutation, by pure bad luck, she said: Fake had never smoked a day in his life.
“His cancer was noncurable. And they told him that when he went into his doctor’s appointments. It could be staved off by different chemos. But it could never be cured,” she said.
Stetson said Fake would do chemotherapy, which would work for maybe six months before it stopped and he would have to try a different treatment plan. This happened multiple times throughout his illness, she said.
“Basically he just ran out of drugs (that worked),” she said.
About a year and a half ago, things began to take a turn for the worst. Fake wasn’t feeling well, Stetson said, and when he went to the hospital, they found tumors nearly everywhere. There were some on his brain as well, she said.
They began to prepare for the end, she said, and doctors told Fake he was going to die.
“I still don’t know what — most people in that position would say: ‘All right, I'm done, I’m giving up. I tried, I fought my best.’ For some reason, he wanted to give it one more shot,” she said.
Fake began a drug trial at the University of Pennsylvania, and the treatment helped initially — tumors began to shrink, she said.
Over more than a decade, the friendship grew for Stetson and Fake. Stetson said the two attended events together — each other’s holiday parties at work, weddings and more. Fake also became close with her two children and mentored them, Stetson said.
“He sought every opportunity possible to educate them [and] teach them,” she said, adding that it wasn’t just her kids — he looked to mentor all kids.
Lee Ann Banaszak, a professor and head of the department of political science at Penn State University Park, said Fake was devoted to Penn State.
Fake was a member of the Penn State University Alumni Association, the Penn State University Alumni Admissions Volunteer Program, the Penn State University Political Science Mentorship Program and the Penn State University Liberal Arts Alumni Mentoring Program, according to the obituary.
But Fake didn’t just participate in organizations to give back to students. Each week he came up for a home football game, he would spend the day Friday mentoring students in the College of Liberal Arts.
“When he came, he would set up shop in one of our conference rooms,” she said, and worked to help graduating students who were interested in working for the federal government.
“He really was a devoted friend and champion of our department,” she said.
He was always thinking of others — even when he received his Public Service Award, and the day was about him, Fake took over an hour giving those in attendance a tour of the Justice Department, Banaszak said.
“What was supposed to be a celebration of him he turned around and generously took everyone around the building,” she said,
Just recently, Banaszak said she met a student right before graduation who had no sense of what to do after school. Fake spent hours with that student talking with them to help them find their path in life.
And while Fake was an alumnus, he really had become a member of the department, she said.
“A lot of us here will miss him, pretty deeply,” Banaszak said.
Brett Hoffman, a Mid-Atlantic regional recruiter for Penn State, echoed those thoughts, and said Fake was an “extraordinary character.”
“Every opportunity he had to help us he did,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Fake had “endless energy,” and was always ready for the next thing that came at him. He was tireless, he said.
And while it’s easy to be passionate about some things, like sports, Fake was passionate about everything.
Royston was not a Hollywood movie star or a highly paid sports celebrity, but she was a hero for many in the community. Her obituary said it best, she was “a passionate and dedicated elementary school teacher, having taught 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th grades” in the public school system.
“He was the most dedicated person I’ve ever known,” he added.
In addition to his time working to mentor students, both through university organizations and on his own time, Fake also set up an endowment. Stetson said Fake made it his life’s goal to make sure he could have a scholarship fund.
Throughout his battle with cancer, she said, there were many times where Fake came close to dying. But “by the grace of God,” she said, he lived long enough to give the first recipient of his endowment the scholarship.
“I know that meant the world to him,” she added.
Penn State, through and through
Penn State was Fake’s “deal,” Stetson said, fondly calling him “Mr. Penn State” and joking he should be the university’s mascot.
He made it to one final game before his death — Penn State’s home opener against Appalachian State, which the team won, 45-38.
Just before the most recent home game against Kent State, which was played Sept. 15 and which the team won 63-10, Fake was preparing for yet another trek up to University Park.