Tommy L. Brown

April 28, 1942 ~ October 30, 2021 (age 79)


Tommy L. Brown

Tommy L. Brown, 79, passed away in his sleep at his home in Enfield on October 30, 2021, following an extended illness. Born in Henderson, KY, on April 28, 1942, to Samuel Preston Brown and Marion Madeline Haynes, Tom spent his childhood near the Ohio River, on which his father worked as a towboat engineer. Growing up, he kept stats for his high school sports teams and played accordion in the pep band. After high school, he attended the University of Kentucky, where he studied physics and met Wilma Brandenburgh in German class. They married in 1963 and moved to Minneapolis to study at the University of Minnesota. There, Tom received a B.S. in Recreation and Parks Administration and an M.S. in Forest Recreation Resource Management with a minor in Social Research Methods. While in graduate school, Tom made early use of computers to analyze environmental data. He moved with his family to Ithaca in 1970 to begin a position at Cornell University as a research associate in the Department of Natural Resources.

Tom established himself as a prolific and respected researcher and writer who authored and co-authored hundreds of academic and professional publications. He travelled extensively throughout the United States to present at conferences and contributed to numerous studies dealing with fish, wildlife, and forest management as well as outdoor recreation and tourism under sponsorship of state and federal agencies. He is credited with being one of the early leaders in application of social sciences to fish and wildlife conservation and management decision making. Tom held the position of senior research associate and leader of the Human Dimensions Research Unit until his retirement in 2008.

Tom and Wilma raised three children on their small family farm in Enfield. A devoted father, Tom was actively involved in his children’s education and activities. He taught them outdoor recreation skills and coached members of their 4-H club in public speaking, photography, and darkroom work. He provided a role model of integrity, diligence, and personal as well as social responsibility. Tom was a loving and supportive spouse to Wilma, for whom he cared during a lengthy illness until her death in 2014. In 2015, Tom met Judith Knight who became his companion and life partner, and who supported him during his illness of the past two years. 

Tom loved nature and the outdoors and spent hours gardening, clearing trails, and enjoying walks through the orchard and woods of his property, where he taught his children and grandchildren how to identify trees. For many years, Tom made his own maple syrup from the sugar maple trees in his woods. A great dog lover, Tom had a natural connection with animals, and over the years helped to raise goats, chickens, and other animals. He enjoyed puzzles, watching sports and live theater, and was an attentive and thoughtful observer of political and social developments.

A member of the Ithaca Friends Meeting for nearly 50 years, Tom was a nurturer who offered wisdom and a seasoned ear to many. He was Clerk of the Meeting from 2007-2009 and served multiple terms on many of the Meeting’s committees over the years. He especially enjoyed his role as Meeting Historian, and in his quiet way, was deeply committed to furthering the causes of peace and social justice. 

Tom is survived by his son Maury (Debbie Smith) of Kansas City, MO, and their children Emlen and Andra; daughter Audrey Hamilton (Phillip) of Cazenovia, NY; daughter Lenora Schneller (Tom) and their children Julian and Theo of Ithaca, NY; sister Barbara Brown of Henderson, KY; and partner, Judith Knight.  

The family would like to thank the doctors and nurses at the Ithaca Dialysis Clinic for their care and support. Burial will be at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, and friends are invited to a reception Friday, November 5th at 3pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 120 3rd St. in Ithaca.

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