Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Dear Family and Friends of Tom Harris
Well, it happened suddenly but not unexpectedly — Tom passed away at his apartment in Key
West last Tuesday evening and was found in his reading and TV-watching chair on Wednesday
morning, April 28th. The EMT recorded his death at 10:25 am on 4/28/21. This is Tim Ditzler, Tom’s
college friend and sailing buddy writing to you.
Tom felt weak on Friday morning the 23rd and decided not to go to work. By the end of the day, he
decided it was time to retire from his two jobs — one as the receptionist at the Key West Lions Club
Eye Clinic where he manned the office five mornings a week to receive gifts of eyeglasses and also
as a volunteer tutoring students learning English as a second language at the Literacy Volunteers of
America in Key West where he was much appreciated for the last 4-5 years.
By Sunday afternoon he thought it might be time for hospice but delayed his decision while he sorted
out his meds. We spoke several times on Tuesday and he was clearly getting weaker. By Tuesday
evening he had no more strength because his oxygen % levels when moving about had dropped into
the low 60’s, an unsustainable level that started on Saturday evening.
I share these anecdotes so you know that Tom was active and vital until the end. His mind was
strong but his lung disease proved stronger. I don’t believe he suffered at the end, but if he did, it
wasn’t for long. He wanted to pass away at home and he did. His last year living ashore away from
his beloved L’Esprit Libre II where he watched the sunset every evening was tough but he never
complained and he took each day as it came. He has been helped by a devoted group of friends and
he seemed content with how his life was coming to an end. We thank all of them.
As many of you know, Tom had definite plans for his departure and we are going to fulfill his wishes.
As a life-long yachtsman, his first wish is to be buried at sea — not his ashes but his entire body.
And the second wish is that we hold a bon voyage party afterwards where we tell our favorite
stories of Tom over the years with a drink in our hands. When I visited him in March, he laid out his
plans, including who he wanted me to invite to these events, hence this email to you.
Tom’s burial at sea will be held on Friday afternoon, June 4th, the 43rd anniversary of our
leaving Boston harbor to sail across the Atlantic. A Corinthinian Catamaran will take up to 40 of us
the required 3 nautical miles offshore (www.corinthiancatamarans.com) and once we motor off the
archipelago of the Keys, we will reach the minimum required depth of 600 feet within a 45 minute
drive at a moderate pace from our starting point. The boat is operated by an experienced dive shop,
so they know the depth of waters around Key West.
Once we’ve reached our destination, we will stop the engine and stay in that location. We will hold a
non-denominational service for up to 30 minutes and then make our way back to the Key West Bight
harbor for a Reception on the Roof Top of the Waterfront Brewery(www.thewaterfrontbrewery.com)
to celebrate Tom’s life with drinks and snacks. We estimate our total sea trip time will be less
than 3 hours and we will be moving at a moderate pace so as to keep everyone feeling safe. Those
of you who would like to attend the Reception Only and not the boat ride are most welcome.
We will be departing from the dock area behind The Perry Hotel on Stock Island
(www.perrykeywest.com). We have chosen this location to avoid the traffic and commotion of the
main waterfront area. We want you to arrive 1:45 — 2:00 pm to collect your name tag and get your
orientation to our event and the boat. We plan to depart around 2:15pm.
If you are coming from out of town, you need to book your hotel room right away as Key West is
a resort town with an event happening every week. The week we are gathering is Gay Pride Week
although that happens mostly in Old Town and we will be in New Town. In addition, Key West is one
of the resorts in the US that is fully open to tourists, so the hotels are taking advantage of the
situation and seem to be charging a bit more than usual.
We need to know who wants to join us for Tom’s burial at sea to finalize our plans. We expect to
have room for everyone who wants to attend but we need to know your intentions so we can plan
accordingly. Please email me back with you RSVP that you want to join our event to commit Tom’s
body to the sea. If you have questions, my cell is 970 274 8454.
Please also email me back if you plan to attend the Reception only so we have enough snacks
for everyone. Tom and I have loved hosting parties over the years, so this event is definitely a
Celebration of Tom’s Life and he will be with us in spirit. We look forward to your participation to
make this a proper celebration of his life and many contributions to those he worked with.
Now for those of you who are not able to join us for the live event, we will be hosting a Zoom
event to celebrate Tom’s life on Sunday, June 13th at 12 noon ET which is one week later. We
have picked the time of 12 noon to allow for Tom’s friends in Europe to participate as well as for
folks across several time zones in the US.
On our Zoom call we will show photos of the live event and hear one another’s comments. To give
some structure to our Zoom Celebration, we would like 10-12 volunteers to each speak for no
more than 3 minutes. Tom had a life that included living in New York, London, Amsterdam and Paris
and working for clients in several countries. We want everyone to hear about the breadth and scope
of his life, so please email me if you would be willing to organize your thoughts so that your
comments are limited to no more than 3 minutes each. After those presentations, we will open the
floor to everyone. The information for our Zoom call is shown at the bottom of this document.
When Tom went through his address list for this event, he described each of you with an anecdote
or two. While I’ve known Tom for 54 years, many of you I’ve not met and after hearing his stories, I
really look forward to the Celebrations we will share about our dear friend Tom, the raconteur
I share your affection for Tom and I know that reading about his passing may be tough. However I
know he lived a full life throughout his 73 years and we have much to celebrate about Tom before
our memories begin to fade.
With affection for each of you as fellow admirers of Tom, xo Tim Ditzler — My Cell is 970 274 8454
Zoom information: Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/3138718778
Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): +14086380968,3138718778# or +16465588656,3138718778#
Dial: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 313 871 8778