In Memory of Tom Shamrell ‘83

Written by: John Gelwicks, Grassroots Class of 1981

Tom Shamrell ’83 passed away on March 12, 2020. He leaves behind his beautiful wife Edith and two wonderful daughters, Laia & Kyla, a large extended family and friends all over the world. He fought an epic battle with cancer and truly regretted leaving his family too early; Tom was 59 years old. The world is dimmer without him in it. 

Tom and I had just reunited after almost 20 years of not being in touch; it had been almost 40 since Sterling. We actually picked up right where we left off. Our Bounder experiences that we created for ourselves were ones that tethered us together as good friends, even decades later. Trying to walk on Little Hosmer Pond in the dead winter, the minus zero place at night time, blindfolded and trying to compensate for one foot shorter than the other. It was always an adventure with Tom, even just sitting on the hill behind the Common, watching the Northern Lights. 

He embodied an exceptionally quick wit, great humor and always compassion over competition. He made sure you were ok in order for him to be ok. Tom loved putting together the puzzles of life. 

Tom invited me to stay over on my drive through Portland and showed me the magic that was his wonderful life. Not as often as you would think do people get the opportunity to have such a wonderful wife and adorable children. Not wealthy in financial terms, and not without the struggles that accompany most lives, but Tom was truly wealthy in terms of a bounty of love, friends, and a life filled with travel and adventure. It was always about enjoying the journey, not the destination. He knew that’s what life is all about. 

Many people can spend their entire lives dreaming of doing the things that Tom did like sheep farming in Norway, Peace Corps work in Senegal, finding a soulmate in Paris, a partner he truly loved sharing all the gifts this world can provide. His children reminded me of giggles and mysteries to be found, and fun in the simple things, and they knew and liked really good food, even enjoyed eating seaweed which is saying a lot for kids these days, and homework and being kind and polite to guests. And they had great questions for me. Tom lives in them today. 

My last call to Tom was a real tear-jerker as he answered but couldn’t speak. I knew he was very ill, and I just made jokes and talked to him and said all is good in the world brother. You have waged an epic battle for life and family and we’re all here for you, and then I let him go. Young Sterling students with their lives ahead of them, see the horizon of the end of life as so far away and yet it happens so fast when you look back. Tom of course knew all this, all the way along the journey of life. It was an honor to know him, break bread with him, speak genuinely about the tools we need to impart to others and learn for ourselves to make this world just a little better.  It was a joy to be able to know and love this remarkable human being. 

I am truly grateful that I got reunited with Tom and had an opportunity to share his family and food with him. Tom, you dug a place in the hearts of so many. You are greatly missed.


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