I don't know if I managed when I last spoke to you, but I tried to tell you how much of an inspiration you have always been to me. I tried, but words aren't really enough to explain it. You have always been my example to follow, both in the peaceful times and when I needed to keep going and keep struggling against the odds. I have always loved you and always been happy and proud to have you in my life. I am immensely grateful for everything you taught me, even the lessons which aren't so easy to define...like the strength I picked up just by being around you. You have defined my standards for myself and I am a better person because of that. You are, and will always be, my hero.
-- Christianna Cannon, inscribed May 26, 2006
Tom, my best friend, husband, soulmate, love of my
life, co-paddler, co-founder, co-writer, fellow
artist, best teacher, best student, I miss you every
second of every day.
Yet, I know it was always your mission, your goal, to
give me enough confidence in myself to know that I
can, I must go on without your physical presence. You
said you were depending on me to run our Wildlife
I can feel you right there with me every time I pick
up a canoe paddle. You had such faith in me long
before I did.
I remember the happiness in your voice as I gained
sureness in handling a canoe. I can hear you saying,
"it's just like you're walking in a screen door!" soon
after we began venturing forth together in that first
Wildlife Research Team canoe.
That canoe, "Do-er" had a lot in common with you,
darling. Both of you had been battered by storms and
were badly scarred, but still with years of useful
life ahead, once a few repairs had been made. All you
wanted was another chance. And you were so good about
giving others that same chance to redeem themselves.
You were an artist with fiberglass, among other
mediums! So you healed that canoe, and that canoe
healed you. And me. I was something of a mess, indeed,
when you came back into my life with a death sentence
over your head.
So we healed each other, too, my love.
Thank you for being the first to tell me I was strong.
I really miss your jokes and your unique and very off
the wall humor, your zany take on life, your
poetically goofy yet romantic way with words. I miss
the development of our own special secret language.
You were always so relieved when I knew exactly what
you were trying to say when you couldn't remember the
What I really lament is the loss to humanity of that
vast and eclectic store of knowledge stored up in your
I am so sad for the dogs who love you and miss you,
and wonder if they sense where their best pal went?
You were so graceful, so fluid, so loose. You never,
ever froze up or were stuck for an answer or a
solution. That was part of your secret for your dog
training success. You'd let a mean dog pretty much
bite you to let him know that there was someone who
wouldn't back down. You were great at calling bluffs.
Not that you were ever, ever foolish with biting dogs!
You knew what you were doing at all times. No dog
could surprise you: you were in his head immediately
and could see yourself through his eyes. And the dogs
were always so relieved to see you! They knew! Even
over the phone, the first time you spoke with a
frazzled owner, you were usually able to solve the
problem. Training dogs never got old for you. You
loved finding answers. You relished every challenge,
the harder the better.
I miss the look on your face at 4 a.m., when the
normal world was asleep, and everything was possible.
The whole world was yours then. I miss that gleam in
your eye as we were driving with the canoes to get on
the water before the sun came up. You lived for every
sunrise, and every sunset, and each time the sun came
up, it was for you, a sign you were still here to make
the best of every day, even if you'd barely slept. You
were a 24-hour-a-day person. You taught me to expect a
whole lot more out of myself.
I miss how you'd come up behind me and kiss the top of
I miss what a bad little kid you were, particularly
when it came to ice cream, cookies, pie, donuts, and
cakes! I still joke that my name being so close to a
favorite treat was why you loved me! I am less than
pleased with the twenty pounds I gained by simply
hanging out with you, however.
What I don't miss is the pain on your face brought on
by your diabetic foot ulcers, your peripheral
neuropathy, the cancer's ravages. How did you do it,
No more suffering, Tom. No more crazy cramps in the
middle of the night. No wonder you didn't like to
You managed to hang onto all of your toes no matter
how many infected bones the good podiatrists at the VA
Hospital removed from your besieged feet. You and Pain
were old friends, you told me, very matter-of-fact.
Well, that's one old friend you can drop off your
I am glad I was strong enough to keep my promise to
you, that you'd be here at home with me, safe in our
bed, not in that scary VA, when death finally came to
That you always felt safe with me, and were on your
best behavior with me, through these 28-plus years,
was the greatest compliment anyone has ever given me.
That alone gave me confidence and strength.
You were the fiercest of fighters, of soldiers, but
never a foolish one. You always weighed out the
options, and were able to discern the risk and reward
ratio better than anyone.
I still say, "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus,
and Tom is from some planet nobody has ever heard of."
Yes, indeed, that is the only acceptable explanation.
How else can you explain so many contradictions within
one human being? Summed up by Scary but Silly? A man
trained to kill by the military, but who little
children and puppies approached with delight?
People who comment on how much you loved to talk, may
or may not be aware of how much they talked to you,
often confessing much more than they intended. You
made them feel safe, that no confession was too
outrageous or out of line. You truly liked women, and
it was astonishing how many of us would confess our
menstrual problems to you!
You especially liked women who were a little more
"spunky" which was a favorite word of yours. That
special spark is what you looked for. Glad you helped
me to find and develop mine, like nobody else had ever
been able to do.
You also loved people, canine and human, who had, as
you called it, "Pizzazz!"
And I use the word, Love, as you would have me use it.
A sacred word, that you never used lightly.
Well, thanks to my precious daughter, I have the
chance to cathartically write these words to you.
Thank you, Tom, for being such a good friend and
mentor to my daughters. Thank you for understanding
that they came first in my daily round, and that I had
to raise them in a safer place, which meant long weeks
without you and me spending time together physically.
Thank you for going to their schools to talk about
life in the wilderness and to teach their classmates
how to respect nature. Thank you for being a friend to
Thank you for all the phone calls, to keep us bonded.
In our fifteen and a half years together, I doubt if
there were five days where we didn't talk on the
When Christianna told me about her memorial to you on
our WRT webpage, my mind shut down. It was just after
you departed from this plane of existence.
Obviously, I cannot possibly sum up our life together,
my love for you, in a few perfect words carved in
marble. The words for that don't even exist. So, babe,
even though you didn't understand or like computers,
you've got to admit that this is a superb way to share
our special love with the love-starved world. Maybe we
can still give hope to the hopeless, living by
Well, beloved husband, please give Trep a hug for me.
I can still remember the feel of the top of his head
as I was painting his portrait all those years ago.
That was our first co-birthday, when I gave you that
painting, and I recall the tear trickling down your
cheek that night. I know you held his memory in your
heart, along with a lot of other dogs with "pizzazz"
all of these years.
Remember how I told you that you'd better go to
Heaven, because none of your dogs would go to Hell,
despite your whole Hell On Paws Kennel thing?
I am sure that for someone like you, it is only Heaven
if your dogs are there with you. Well, we have no way
of knowing, of proving. Take it on faith until our
days here are over.
I still cannot believe that your days here are over.
But I know I will see you again someday. I know that
you accepted God into your heart, that you were able
to feel His presence guiding you in many terrifying
experiences, that He guided you through each of them.
I wonder how many people knew how fiercely private you
actually were about such soul-issues?
Guess this is a mighty large statue, with enough room
for all of this, but that would be consistent,
wouldn't it, big guy? There's plenty of room on just
one of your statue's size 17 feet for this inscription
and plenty of others.
So, for now, I will focus on another project, but know
that you are right there with me, watching me from our
own little star you told me about.
Hope things are going well as you reorganize Heaven!
Love you for eternity, beloved husband,
-- inscribed August 27, 2006
My name is Toby, I adopted a shy little puppy for my son from Pets In Distress one day. I brought this puppy home to my ten year old dog that was queen of the house. Well, it didn't work out for the little pup; the older one kept attacking her. I loved them both and was not about to part with either one. I was desperate, and that's when I met Dr. Tom. PID referred him to help in the situation.
So began the bond between Sheyna, Joseph and Dr. Tom and I. Dr. Tom came to our home assessed the two dogs and began working with Joseph and his puppy. Sheyna learned a lot, but Shadow the queen of the house wouldn't give up her reign. Dr. Tom's diagnosis was that Shadow was like an elderly woman that just had trouble tolerating an active young child. Sheyna just wasn't ready for assertiveness training, but he did get the obedience training in. So, training lead to a canoe ride for my son's birthday and trying to get involved with the Wildlife Research Team. He gave my son a skeleton of a turtle and asked him to put the many pieces together. We attended a tribute to him at Matheson Hammock, and the picture was displayed. He gave children a common thread with nature and taught them respect for it. I admired and respected him, and will miss his presence in this world. There are not enough people like him. There are not enough adults that encourage children that have an more of an interest in nature than sports. Dr. Tom loved life and was always proud to say it. He always told me that you have to love what you do.
I found out that Dr. Tom had died after his memorial, so I am taking the opportunity to express my thoughts here. Donna, my son Joseph and I met you at the tribute. I am very sorry for your loss and the suffering that you both endured. The Wildlife Research Team is an incredible legacy and I am sure that his hand is there to guide all of the projects and great work that you do. If there is any way that I can help, please let me know. I work with Elena at PID too.
Thank you for the opportunity to write this. The strength of Dr. Tom's spirit is in every animal, person and waterway he has touched.
Sincerely, Toby Lopez
-- inscribed March 4, 2007
You came into my life at the worse moment a mother could ever imagine. You and Trep were my last hope at finding my son, Jeremy Coots, alive or dead. What you gave me in the end wasn't my son, ironically, it was so much more. If it wasn't for you Tom Kazo, I wouldn't be here today. If it wasn't for your meticulous and exhausting search I would not have been able to "accept" the inevitable. I would not have been able to go on with my life let alone deliver my daughter, Amanda, a few short weeks later. You gave me back my life, not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to know. Yes, I had to learn how to live with the loss of my son, but without you, Dr. Tom, there would be nothing here but a blank page. My only regret is in not trying harder to find you all these years so I could tell you personally; "Thank You for giving me the truth that I would never had known without your efforts". I am thankful for your lovely wife, Donna, as she has given me the next best thing-- this memorial page to honor you and a way to give you a message that is many years late, but heartfelt none the same... Thank you for giving me my life back!
--Melodye Hathaway, inscribed June 27, 2012
How to add your inscription: Please send an email to and include the following:
- In the Subject line, put "Inscription for Dr. Tom Memorial."
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- Please include your name as you wish to sign it on your inscription. If you do not include your name, you will be recorded as "Anonymous."
- Your inscription will appear on the memorial within a few days. I add each one myself, and depending on how many I receive, it might take a day or two. I will add the inscriptions based on the order I receive them. If I have any questions I will email you back before adding your inscription.
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