I feel compelled to write something upon hearing of Tom’s passing. I am not sure I know exactly why except maybe because he had a special quality that I find to be rare. I first became acquainted with Tom on the Grand Jury. He was gentle, soft spoken and a gentleman no matter the topic, the situation or his mood.
As I got to know him my respect for him grew, having learned bit by bit about his Ph.D. in Physics from UC Berkeley, the quintessential smart guy field of study. Later, I learned of his academic and publishing careers. Because of that I wanted my budding mathematician son Thor to talk with him every time they met downtown and I shamelessly used Tom to impress upon Thor the importance of study and higher education. Tom would throw Thor some math questions on a park bench and then hit him with some higher math concepts. I am grateful for that.
Tom, also as everybody knows, volunteered everywhere he could. When I was Lead Teacher of the school he approached me about volunteering his time as a math tutor. He also donated a scholarship to our graduates, and helped at the Museum. I am sure there is much else he did but that was my experience with him. He did not waste his time here in this life. He had energy and did not give up. His life did not pass by as a series of missed opportunities.
Finally, though he could have been arrogant about his academic accomplishments and the intelligence or even genius that they imply, he never once in my experience raised his voice, insulted, name called, categorized or behaved in any way other than as a decent person who didn’t see an enemy in opposition when discussing the controversies of the day.
That is something, I think, that our communities and our country could take a lesson from. It’s hard not to like and respect a person like that because you could tell he truly liked and respected you and wasn’t an intellectual in love with his own ideas at the cost of friendship and love. Maybe, for that reason alone I felt the need to write something, or simply because his qualities will be missed and I will miss him.
Augustine Corcoran, Downieville