Tom Stowell died January 5, 2006 at his home in Ventura, California. He leaves his brother, Rich and two sisters, Susan and Marsha. A memorial service is planned for Sunday, January 8th. For information, please see below.
Tom was born in 1957 and graduated from Pali High. He was a member of the Wolverton Staff during the 1970s. His first summer was 1972 when he served as assistant cook - a job he liked well enough to do several more summers. We all know how difficult the assistant cook job could be. That Tom did it so well, and liked it, tells you just what kind of kid he was!
Though Tom wasn’t seen at the annual family encampments at Wolverton, he was the one that insured everything went without a hitch. Tom made sure the generator was always up and running and he was the person responsible for staging [and oftentimes packing] all the equipment to be used at Camp.
If you would like to send photos or remembrances of Tom, we will post them on this page. Please scroll down to read people’s comments.
In lieu of the impermanence of flowers, Rich has asked that people make donations in Tom Stowell’s name to the Sequoia Parks Foundation. See here to learn about the it.
John Taylor had a great idea that we should lump all the donations together. When we reach a total of $1000.00 we will be able to have a plaque in Tom’s name posted at the new Grant Grove Visitor’s Center. From JT’s recommendation, the plaque will say:
In memory of
Camp Wolverton BSA Staff
Please send your contributions to:
Naturalists at Large
PO Box 3517
Ventura CA 93006
Rich sends the following message to everyone who has contributed to the Sequoia Fund in Tom’s name so a plaque can be posted at Grant Grove:
“Thank you for your thoughts and contributions. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my sisters to see the Staff’s response in Tom’s memory. We like the thought that there will always be a reminder in the Parks that Tommy was there.”
He is little more than everything,he is democracy; he is alive: he is ourselves.
Mircles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are by somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being;somebody who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush “tie it into my hand”---
from the introduction of New Poems, 1938
“If we have no friends, we have no pleasure; and if we have them, we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the loss.”
It is in the memory of others that some part of us remains alive.
A Memorial Service was held for Tom Stowell at Rich and Robin’s house in Ventura
What is there to say? A rush of memories and deep sympathy for Rich and his family. If we impacted no one, no one would care. --- Mike Robbins
Please let Rich know that I am thinking about him, Robin and the boys as they work through this horrible period. Today is the anniversary my mother’s death, so my mental/spiritual patterns are heightened by this news. Doug, Lindy and I will be keeping them in our hearts the coming days, weeks and months. --- Margie Buckingham
Though I never knew Tom, I stand in grief for his brother, one of my best friends, Rich.
Here’s to the living and the dead. We are all the same in soul. --- Tim Stubbs
Rich: You are in my thoughts and prayers. --- Bram Govaars
Oh my, Peter. That’s very sad news. I’m so sorry to hear it. Rich and I were living together when Tommy was just a kid. I won’t bother Rich, but I feel just awful. Please let me know if I can send flowers or something. --- Romi [Richmond] Gordon
Rich, having lost my own brother years ago, I know that nothing anyone can say will make things any easier for you. But please know that your friends are thinking of you and sharing your grief. You have my deepest sympathy. --- Arnie Sillman
Tom’s first summer on Staff at Wolverton was also my first summer on Staff.
He and I “worked” together for several summers.
Although I haven’t seen or talked to him in about 30 years, I have thought about him every time I have been at Camp.
I have always considered him my friend, and each year I would ask Rich how his brother was doing, and to say “Hi” to him for me.
Tom was really a fun teenager to be around. As if it was yesterday, I can remember Tom taking a bath in the Wolverton kitchen sink.
I also remember Tom with a cast on his arm, sliding down the wet rocks in a creek [in Deadmans Canyon], buck-naked, wildly laughing, and yelling at us to catch him to stop him.
But he also yelled to not touch his arm.
My recollection is that we didn’t know what to do, so we just let him sail on by us.
He eventually stopped by bouncing off a few rocks. He was laughing so hard he didn’t feel a thing. And he couldn’t wait to do it again.
Those were great times, and I am glad Tom was there.
He is now gone, but he will never be forgotten.
Sincerely --- Frank Glick
I have a few strong memories of Tom.
The first is in 1972 - his first year on Camp staff. Tom was working as assistant cook. Which meant he had to get up and out of bed by around 5 AM in order to prep for breakfast.
He kept a doobie by his bedside in order to greet the day in the proper manner.
One day he woke up and his pre-rolled, pre-prepared doobie was gone! Wonder of wonder and miracles or miracles. A little rodent had made off with it in the night!
To say that Tom was perturbed would be a humorous understatement. But he was philosophical about it. After all, there was a job to be done. And he did it. I think Tom was the best assistant cook Camp Wolverton had during my days on Staff. And I say this as a former Steward.
The Camp kitchen was always the home of Mus musculus - the house mouse. Mouse traps were always, and continue to be, an important piece of kitchen equipment. As assistant cook, one of Tom’s duties was to set and clean the mouse traps. He had a special spot, between the Lodge and the sump, where he would bury the products of each and every night’s “catch.” He called it “Mouse-witz.” He even made some tombstone markers!
Around 1983, when Rich was first organizing Naturalist at Large, I visited him and Margaret in their Santa Monica apartment in order to see his computer. This was a big deal back in those days. Computers were on the cusp, you know.
I walked up the stairs to their second floor abode, past a heavy-set fellow with long stringy blond hair who was smoking a cigarette, on the long porch. As I passed him, I felt a light touch on my shoulder. “Pete, It’s Tom,” he said. So we talked about Camp times.
I also recall a talk we had when Tom first moved to Ventura. Both his parents had died. I stopped in to see him at his new condo.
You have to understand that Tom LOVED tools and anything mechanical. His condo proved it. When I walked in I felt I was in a master craftsman’s shop! You had to maneuver your way through his living space - labrhythrian doesn’t begin to describe the experience!
We talked about a lot of things - from his wild teenaged days of taking drugs and drinking lots of alcohol and driving cars into massive accidents to his current life. He gave the impression of someone who was content with his life and didn’t regret any of the events that had brought him to where he was today. He knew that Rich was concerned with him and worried about him.
Tom made me swear to Rich that I wouldn’t say anything to him about our conversation but I figure it is OK to say it now.
Tom said to me, “I know Rich worries about me.” He wished there was a way that Rich could understand that Tom was happy with himself - what he had been and how he had become.
He also told me how much he loved being a baby-sitter for Max and Luke. He was embarrassed to admit it - you know how guys can be when they talk about their feelings. I didn’t need to ask why he felt that way. It was pretty plain.
The last thing I remember from that meeting was how happy and proud he was to be working at Naturalists at Large. Some people would say that doing equipment maintenance and janitorial work is for a lower “class” of people. Tom didn’t see that at all. He took pride in what he did - whatever it be - and dedicated himself to doing the best that any person could do. It’s hard to find somebody with that kind of forethought and concern.
I’ll always remember a lot about Tom Stowell. Like Frank wrote, I’ll remember what a great time we had when we were teenagers. And I’ll also remember that, no matter what trials he suffered as an adult, he was always the person who could find humor and meaning in the wonders we all confront in day-to-day living. Sometimes, I’m convinced the true measure of a person is the ability and skill to deal with those realities. It is easy to discuss the issues of the day. It is so much more difficult to find your path through life and live it. I think that Tom knew his path and lived it as best he could until he could stand it no longer.
If there is one thing that I have learned in this sweet, short life it is that I don’t know anything. All I can do is try to do the best I can. I think - and I hope - that Tom Stowell tried to do the same --- Peter Stekel
Tom will always inhabit our happy place. What a wonderful place to spend an eternity.
Thank you Peter and Frank for capturing Tom’s spirit so beautifully.
Thank you Rich for taking such wonderfully good care of Tom all these years.
I loved Tom and he knew it, and I regret not visiting him in Ventura as I always intended.
Too late. --- Doug Pollock
Unfortunately I will not be able to come from NH for the memorial. Please convey my sympathies to Rich & Family.
--- Frank Frazier
Tom was so brave in ways that I have never had to be and cannot imagine, and I feel the same way about you. Like all of us, remembering the good times is the best salve.
Seeing the photos of the Staff Bearpaw when we courted disaster on the granite slabs made me smile in spite of myself. Tommy waving his bandaged arm was one of most memorable parts of the trip. As I remember, the “catchers” in boots grabbed his good arm to swing him around; missing was not an option. Neither can I forget him in overalls, just like Doug’s, at the campfires. He was a true forest imp and he does live in all of our memories. --- John Taylor
Although my memories of Tom are 30 years old, they are from a time when he worked hard to assure that the Scouts were healthy, well fed, safe, and that they had fun at Camp.
His spirited personality contributed to Staff cohesion.
But, let’s face it, the incident that will guarantee his place in the perpetual annals of Camp Wolverton lore was his reaction the morning when that mouse ate Tom’s hoarded reefer.
Rich, we are all so sad with you, even as we celebrate Tom’s irrepressible spirit. --- Mike Silpa
Those were some great take-me-back pictures of Tom and the bunch. You made the difference by assisting Tommy find his various paths through life.
As you remember, when Tom worked at an import store (name?) and the store had a fire, followed by a fire sale, Tom sold Joanne and I two rugs that we still have in our house today. I thought later that I had bought not one but two rugs from a snake oil salesman. He was so animated and funny when he was making the sale that we couldn’t resist! I won’t forget him for that and when he worked in the kitchen at Wolverton. He was a real trooper. --- John Daniels
I was so sorry to hear about Tom’s death. Kathy, Rachel and I all send our sincere condolences. Our hearts reach out to you and your family in support during your time of grief.
My memories of Tom are so clear even today. As was so well described by Frank in his comments on the web page, I was also one of the group butt-sliding that day with Tom. I will always remember him in the light of that day. He was daring, mischievous, and irreverent. The imagery of Tom’s sprit is indelibly printed on my heart and, will be with me for the rest of my life.
We are sorry we were not able to attend the memorial service but only learned of Tom’s death this morning. Again we send our condolences to you and your family. --- Allen Horwitz
I’m sorry to hear of the Stowell family’s loss. I did not know Tom as I only worked the season of 1971. I really wanted to come back in 1972, but needed money to get through college and somehow working at Wolverton didn’t fit that criteria. Now I find out that I could have met new people, most especially Tom, if I had been able to work at Wolverton that next summer. His passing is a sad event for sure.
Thank you Peter “Johnny couldn’t be with us tonight” Stekel for always keeping me in touch with everyone that feels their Wolverton experience is as special and significant as I do. I know you don’t remember the Johnny couldn’t be with us tonight thing Peter (at least you didn’t the last time I saw you), but I remember you saying it often as you entered the staff lounge (tent). Your imitation of David Steinberg was impeccable.
I want to make it to the annual June campout this year and hopefully Tioga Pass will be open in time for us to go that way. --- Fred Richter