In Memory

Thomas Anderson

Thomas McConnell Anderson, 63, died at his home in Petersham, Massachusetts on June 1, 2012. With him were his wife Candace Carlisle Anderson, daughter Emily Anderson, son Barrett Anderson, and their immediate family.

Tom was born in Wooster, Ohio on May 6, 1949 to Robert and Priscilla Whitaker Anderson. After graduating from Wooster High School in 1967, Tom earned a BA in Political Science from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1971. Then Tom returned to Wooster to marry Candace.

Wooster was the place where Tom met Candace Carlisle at a high school Valentine’s Day dance. She became the love of his life, and his wife of 41 years.

Tom began his career as a social studies teacher in Ohio at Smithville High School. To his credit he was terminated from teaching duties, because he informed his classes that First Amendment provisions about church and state made it illegal for this public high school to require its students to attend onsite chapel services.  Though the school administration warned that Tom’s act of conscience would ruin his career prospects, they were wrong. Tom earned graduate degrees that led to college-level teaching and administrative posts, before he found his professional niche as a school librarian.

Principles and ethics rather than expediency and self gain guided Tom throughout his life. While a high school student in 1967, he refused National Honor Society induction, to protest racial discrimination within the NHS. In the early 1970’s he was a Conscientious Objector to the Vietnam War. And later in the small town of Petersham, Massachusetts, his beloved home for nearly 30 years, Tom spoke out on behalf of environmental causes, social justice, and ethical politics.

An ardent advocate of life-long learning, Tom earned an MA from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California in 1977, and an MA in Social Ethics from Boston University in 1982. An innovator, Tom worked in the 1980’s as Associate Dean of Students at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in a job-sharing position with his wife Candace. Later he was Dean of Students at Vermont’s Marlboro College, where he also taught religious studies and social ethics.

Tom chose job-sharing over more traditional options, to enable him to be an at-home father several days each week with his children Emily and Barrett. Creating a life with Candace and nurturing his children, defined the life-long roles he cherished most. A gentle, playful, and thoughtful father, Tom cultivated a love of literature and music within his children, now both musicians. He loved to tend the fields and nature preserve surrounding the family’s hilltop home in Petersham, and he reveled in family vacations at their lakeside cottage on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

Tom was known to owners of regional blues clubs as a father who persisted in advocating that they permit under-aged Barrett to attend shows featuring legendary blues musicians. Barrett, now a well-known blues guitarist, credits early exposure fostered by his father.  And while daughter Emily rehearsed with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Tom was known as the grandfather who cavorted endlessly with his grandchildren on Tanglewood’s sweeping lawns.

Tom deliberately altered his life’s work in 1992 when diagnosed with prostate cancer. Inspired by his deep love of literature, and his dedication to educational inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge, he became a librarian. After earning an MLS from Simmons College, he began the career most closely aligned with his own passions.  For 16 years he was librarian at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where he established close and respectful relationships with faculty, students, and administrators. It was his desire never to retire from this post that he loved, and he continued at Oakmont nearly until his death from recurrent prostate cancer.

In addition to his wife Candace, Tom is survived by daughter Emily Adair Anderson, her children Charles and Adeline Chinian, and her partner Tyson Neukirch of Petersham; son Barrett Carlisle Anderson and his wife Emily Joy Anderson of Stow, Massachusetts; brother Douglas Anderson and his spouse Dan Salvucci of Hardwick, Massachusetts; sisters Kathryn Schaum and her husband James Schaum of Mansfield, Ohio, and Karen Schreier of Madison, Wisconsin; mother-in-law Dorothy Carlisle of Wooster, Ohio; brothers-in-law Randall Carlisle of Salt Lake City, Utah, and William Carlisle of Wooster, Ohio; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Tom’s family will host a musical celebration of his life at their Petersham home on August 5. All will be welcome. Details will be forthcoming.

Those wishing to make donations in memory of Thomas McConnell Anderson may send contributions to the hospice service that lovingly assisted Tom and his family during the past 15 months, or to the Thomas Anderson Book Collection established in Tom’s honor at Oakmont Regional High School. Checks designating a hospice gift in Tom’s memory may be sent to: Health Alliance Home Health & Hospice, 25 Tucker Dr., Leominster, MA 01453.  Checks to support the book collection should be made payable to AWRSD, with “Anderson Collection” on the memo line, and they can be sent to: Principal David Uminski, Oakmont Regional H. S., 9 Oakmont Dr., Ashburnham, MA 01430.