Eulogy for Tom Garrard 6/27/97

Hello family and friends of Thomas Lee Garrard.

I am going to be quite honest with you. When Glenda asked me to deliver a eulogy for Tom, I can tell you that at first my heart sank, right to the bottom of my toes. I thought of standing in front of all of Tom's family and friends and trying to deliver a talk about him without breaking down. I told Glenda that I would be honored to write something about Tom but I could not guarantee that I could finish delivering it. So, we have a contingency plan. If my trembling legs give way completely, then Bishop Lowry has agreed to come on and finish this for me. Good, I got at least this far so you know what the plan is!

My second thought about the request was all positive. Frankly, there are some people in this world that I would have trouble writing a eulogy for. If I had to write one about myself, I would have trouble. I know my faults. And being a scientist, like Tom, all would have to come out: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The fortunate thing about this eulogy is that even though I have known Tom for more than thirty-five years, even though I shared an apartment with him for several years, and even though I have been his office mate for most of my professional life, I have no faults to report on. Tom was truly one of the nicest people I have ever known. I don't recall him saying anything bad about anybody, or ever being angry, and we never had a cross word between us. Honest, generous, sincere, a true friend: these are the qualities I think of when I think of Tom. So I called Glenda back and I accepted her request and today I would like to share with you my perspectives on Tom. And if there are any reporters here from the Enquirer or the Globe or one of the many tabloids that would like to hear the dirt on Tom Garrard, you will be disappointed. I don't know any.

Tom and I go back to the 60's in our Texas period. We both went to Rice University together, graduating in 1966. He was from a small West Texas town and I was from North Central Texas. I hate to throw a Texas joke in here, but I know Tom would appreciate it. You know you're from a big state when it takes two adjectives to denote which region you're from. We were, in fact, both proud of our Texas heritage. We used to say that Texas was a great place to be from. And we really meant it. I think I emphasized more the 'from' in that statement and perhaps Tom leaned more toward the 'be.' Anyway, he visited there a lot and I think Tom would have eventually moved back to Texas perhaps. He owned property there and his father, also named Tom, and brother Cleve and his family live there now in Athens.

Tom and I were Physics majors together at Rice. He was a member of Baker College and over the years he has kept in touch with a number of Baker alums. Recently, he and Glenda attended, I believe, their second annual Baker alumnus party in Arizona. At the first one, he played a round of golf, which astounded me when he told me because sports was not his great love. He said he didn't play this year, to give the rookies a chance. I loved Tom's sense of humor. It was outstanding.

Tom came to Caltech in the Fall of 1966 and began his PhD program in the lab of Robbie Vogt. I followed a year later, having spent my first post graduate year elsewhere. Tom and John Lupton roomed together that first year and Tom wrote to me to join them when I arrived. And I did. Tom soon recruited me into Robbie's lab. Tom told me Robbie had a bounty out on new graduate students and of course I wanted to help Tom out. I think Tom got $5 for bringing me in. Tom, John, and I spent about five years together in a couple of apartments. I learned a lot about Tom during this time. Those of you who knew Tom well would probably guess that Tom had a cast iron stomach and could eat anything. Not true. I can testify that I once made a meat loaf that not only Tom couldn't eat, but the neighborhood cats disdained. They ate the leftover peas that covered the meat loaf, but they wouldn't touch the meat loaf itself!

One of the first things I noticed about Tom was his calm and steady demeanor. When everything was chaotic around him, when everything was a total disaster, he was Mr. Calm and Collected. He was unflappable. He was definitely not the jumpy type. I remember the delight he had in telling about the 1971 earthquake. He and I shared the same bedroom -- different beds but the same room. When the earthquake struck about 6 in the morning and I saw my clothes sliding from one end of the closet to the other, he said I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I guess I called upon the Lord 6 or 7 times in a row. When I saw that wasn't having much effect, I looked over at Tom to see what he was doing about the situation. Tom had calmly placed a pillow over his head and was just laying there. Later he explained that he was afraid of the window glass breaking over his head. The window glass! I thought the whole house was coming down. He loved to tease me because I was pretty much Mr. Jumpy and Paranoid in those days. Tom taught me a lot about being more calm and collected. Now, I'm the immovable object in an earthquake, while those about me are running to and fro. I thank you Tom.

Another thing I learned about Tom in those days was his tremendous inner strength. He could withstand more barbs, criticism, and teasing than anyone I've ever known. It was impossible to get under his skin. And believe me, we tried. I remember the first summer of ballooning at Fort Churchill, Canada. It must have been 1968. Tom was the next graduate student of Robbie's destined for his oral candidacy exam. So every day, to properly prepare Tom, Robbie bombarded him with physics questions. I cringed each day, thinking some of these would come my way. Battery charging was my main responsibility that first year and I made it into one of the busiest, most time consuming projects in the history of man, just so I wouldn't be caught in an idle moment and have to field a tough physics question. I don't know if my ploy worked or not, but all the questions went Tom's way and he handled them amazingly well. It was truly a trial by fire and he passed beautifully. It turned out that the next year was my turn, but having seen how Tom handled himself, I was able to do a much better job than I otherwise would have. I thank you again, Tom.

I said sports was not his great love, but I should qualify that. If it involved some sort of danger, then he liked it. Within that calm exterior, a raging river flowed, to quote a line from a recent song. Sometime during our graduate student days, we all went out to the desert and went up in glider planes, the types that get towed aloft and you sail around in awhile. You may not think this was dangerous, but when we all had to strap on parachutes, I certainly got a little nervous. And after the loops and twists and all kinds of scary moves, I was jumping around all excited and Tom was ... well, Tom, very calm and collected.

Recently, Tom has taken up even more dangerous sports. At the Cosmic Ray Conference in Calgary he pulled a rare double: the luge and bungee jumping. He has had a long love affair with scuba diving and sailing, the water kind of sailing, he has a pilot's license, and he recently did a skydive. He loved to travel and scuba diving motivated a lot of trips to exotic places, like the Great Barrier reef, the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, and he had a trip planned for Palau for early next year. He was active in the Sierra Club and he also took up birdwatching to appease me. Now that's a dangerous sport! We did nearly get shot at in Buellton, tracking down an albino red-tailed hawk that the locals, bearing big guns, had decided to protect. And from someone who thinks eating sushi is a dangerous sport, he excelled at that as well.

When Tom graduated from Caltech with his PhD in 1972, he was hired by Robbie Vogt and Ed Stone as a staff scientist in the Space Radiation Lab, the same lab that he was working in as a graduate student. And a year later I did the same thing. We shared an office off and on for the next 25 years. I guess I've spent more time with him than almost anyone else, even Glenda. And I don't know what I'm going to do without him. I must have asked him thousands and thousands of questions over the years, both on physics matters and on personal matters. He was my "go to" guy. He was a storehouse of knowledge about most everything, from computers to politics to you name it. You could ask him and he would know something about it.

One of his greatest gifts was his generosity. He was very patient and very generous with his time. For many years he was the Physics picnic organizer, a very difficult, time consuming, volunteer position, that benefitted all in the Physics, Math, and Astronomy department. He did a number of administrative jobs in our lab too, such as being the contact person for undergrads looking for employment in our lab. He was overall in charge of our computers and network. And he did science as well, most recently with data from Galileo, and of course he had a major responsibility as director of the ACE Science Center, which will be the main focus of activity on ACE when it's launched in August. He was a fiercely dedicated Caltech employee for 25 years, actually about 31 if you count graduate school, which of course he and I like to do. He will truly be missed by all his friends at Caltech, and at SRL in particular.

At some point along the way, John, Tom, and I broke up and found brides and got married. Tom and Glenda just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary this past June 1. Tom was intensely proud of Glenda and her remarkable accomplishments. It was evident in the way he spoke about her that he truly admired, respected, and loved Glenda. Their three terrific children are here today, Lori and her daughter, Rosalee, and Jay and Tommy, or "little dude" as his Dad called him. I often wondered how that worked out when little dude got to be a much bigger dude than his Dad. Jay and his wife Kirsten live in Auburn overlooking the American River. Jay works in the health care industry and Kirsten is employed by the city of Sacramento. Tommy just graduated from the University of Utah and is looking to teach and coach at the high school level. And Lori is in college, attending PCC. Tom absolutely adored his granddaughter Rosalee and it's easy to see why. She has a delightful personality and well deserves the nickname "sunshine" that I've overheard her called. I know Glenda will dearly miss Tom and the kids will certainly miss their father, who would do anything for them.

In fact that is one of the most endearing qualities that I will remember about Tom. He was a genuinely caring person who would just do anything to help out a friend. I remember when he owned a pickup truck when we were graduate students. Well, he loaned that truck out to friends more than he used it himself. He was a soft touch, a gentle man, a caring and loving husband, father, and grandfather, one of most amazing persons under fire that I've ever been associated with, and a truly unique individual. He was my dear friend and I know you feel as I do that we are all better people for having known Tom. May we all try to live up to his standards of honesty, integrity, and sincerity. Good bye my friend. You won't be forgotten.

Alan Cummings 6/27/97

visitors since...7 July 1998
Last Date Revised: 7/07/98