Thomas Dale Crow, a longtime sangha member of Halifax, died peacefully July 22 with his wife June at his side, at Parkland at the Gardens where he had been residing in recent months.
Tom was born November 9, 1942, in Norfolk, Virginia, where his father was stationed. His father, Dale Crow, was a Navy pilot who went missing in action during the battle of Wake Island in the Pacific in October, 1943. Tom was 8 months old. His father was never found and after four years of waiting, his mother remarried in Toledo, Ohio. His younger sister Vicki Varner/Briggs and late brother John Varner were born there. The family moved from Toledo to Coronado, California when Tom was nine years old. Tom graduated from Coronado High School in 1960.
Tom entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and majored in architecture. He later studied art at the Chicago Art Institute, eventually returning to California to partake fully in the 60’s, living in rural and city communes, and later attending Sonoma State College.
Tom met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971 at the Six States of Bardo seminar in Allenspark, Colorado. He also met his future wife, Hawaye June Omura. He returned to California, got his things and came to stay at “The Land”, as Rocky Mountain Dharma Center was then known, later morphing into Shambhala Mountain Center, now Drala Mountain Center. He wintered with Paul Susnis and Michaele Matthews in their small trailer and then built a small beautiful octagonal house where he and June lived. Their daughter, Emily Avery Yoshiko Crow, was born in 1975 in Boulder, Colorado. Tom worked as a carpenter. They spent time at Karme Choling Meditation Center, and in Petaluma. California where Tom earned an MBA from Sonoma State College. They moved to Nova Scotia in 1986.
In Nova Scotia, Tom and Paul Susnis had a short lived but fun faux finishing business at Pier 21. Subsequently Tom worked for Metals Economics Group for several years. He did a lot of volunteer work for the Nova Scotia Sangha as a carpenter and artist and was also a meditation instructor. He helped the Nalanda Translation Committee with drawings for the Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini and Drupchen manuals.
Tom was brilliant, hilarious, an accomplished musician, a wonderful artist, and a good and loyal friend. In spite of many health issues in the last years, he retained his sense of humor and awareness. He became known for his kindness and sweet nature. His root Guru was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and he later became a student of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
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Tribute to Tom Crow, my brother. Tom died about three months ago now. It’s taken me this long to be able to write a tribute because I’ve been in retreat but also because it hurts so much that he’s gone. The words don’t come easily within grief.
He’s the one that brought me into the Dharma in the early 70’s- he and June. As Paul said - “ such beautiful warriors" and I am so grateful to have had them in my life.
“Keep on the Sunny side of life,” the Carter family song, reminds me of Tom as he loved music & was a talented guitarist & he played that song at our other brother John’s sukhavati. John, our youngest ramblin brother died in 2009. Tom also played the song “Ramblin boy” by Tom Paxton & and how the tears they rolled as we lost him.
Tom’s sense of humor kept us all on the sunny side of life. He (my cherished big brother) brought our little family of four much joy & laughter in our early years.
I cherished my moments with Tom. He was a very very very precious, kind, funny, loving wonder-full brother- so creative & full of music & art & life! He had so many gifts & taught us everyday. He was our gift. It’s hard to convey in words how much he meant to me & our family. He was a very caring important person in our lives! And I am so grateful for the brief & fleeting time we spent together as brother & sister…..I can’t say enough…..
Vicky aka Victoria Briggs
I was just thinking of Tom and decided to google him. We were roommates at Cal and both in Arcitecture. He was a window for me into a looser, freer way of being for me, taught me a little guitar and blues. He was the kind of spirit you don't forget. I believe it was Michelle Matthews mentioned above who was with him and of the same haunting spirit and beauty. I'm so grateful to have been drawn to this link to express my appreciation for his continued impact on my life. My sympathies to those close to him. I'd love to see more of his art and life. Please forward to:
Mike Cook, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom arrived at RMDC, moving from California. He was sleeping in his van but as it got colder he moved into our trailer and slept on the tiny couch . We were busy with various projects on the Land; also keeping ourselves fed, warm and clean . Working with Tom, I learned how to handle carpentry tools and skills with them. Tom built a beautiful house for June and Himself above our trailer. He was very talented and would show me his clever joinery.
Later in Boulder, Tom and I and other sangha tradespeople formed a company called Croft Inc. and did home renovations. I think we actually broke even when the company ceased operations. Tom was in charge of the money and did an excellent job with that as well.
All the while, of course, we were doing programs, retreats, and seminaries.
The idea of Croft was to have common goals for practice time, and community service.
Later Tom, June and Emily moved to Nova Scotia and after visiting them a few times we moved as well. Soon Tom and I had the idea of starting something new in Halifax, a faux finishing business. Well, first we had to learn how to do it, so we studied and practiced and did a few jobs. We met lots of Halifax artists and crafts people at the old studios in Pier 21. We watched the stevedores load ships the old fashioned way with booms and ropes. We listened to CBC to learn about our new home. It was good to have somewhere to go in the winter mornings. He was a perfectionist and always took time to do things slowly. He was a lovely fellow
And Music: he moved to Chicago at one point in the 60's so he could see and meet his favorite blues players. Lots of nights we played blues, Tony Matthews, Tom and I, learning songs and playing .
My heart goes out to you wonderfully generous kind smart warriors
June and Tom
and all those so fortunate to be touched by your beauty
Over and again, we’re taught “death comes without warning” – the timing “uncertain”. And still, it’s a shock, even when a body is clearly deteriorating.
It was barely two weeks ago, Tom and I were in the Public Gardens. A bright sunny day, Tom in chipper spirits, his stylish grey hat nattily perched on his head, lots of strangers – even more than usual – greeting Tom with a smile and cheery hello. Back at Parkland I squeezed his shoulder, said goodbye and promised to come see him after datun. It was not to be. That’s hard to accept.
Thinking about Tom these past two days, one word keeps coming to mind: – “gentle”. Tom’s gentle warmth, his gentle smile, his wry gentle humour, the way the Vidyadhara’s teaching and his practice have gently seeped into Tom’s bones and wafted into his pores – no big words, no fancy concepts, no hoo-ha, no big deal. Tom was a true gentleman – A Gentle Man.
And how that gently pervaded the atmosphere around him. The Parkland staff for one. And more. When I go for a walk no one greets me. When I’m with Tom, every second stranger seems to greet us. And it’s not because he was in a wheelchair. Many in wheelchairs with fixed and rigid features get no smile or hello or weather pleasantry as Tom always did. Effortlessly, he’d connect.
Some of my favourite memories with Tom these past months were reading aloud bits of the Vidyadhara’s biography and recollections of the Vidyadhara’s old students. We’d stop, laugh, share memories, and read on.
Your simple, gentle goodness, Tom, still bathes and warms me. Thank you for your friendship.
I was incredibly sad to hear about Tom. I didn't know him well, but whenever I saw him was struck by how he radiated a kind of grounded relaxation and intelligence. I paid a visit to June and him in Vancouver a number of years ago, and he was just so funny and easy to be with. His intelligence just always on the surface. And sense of insouciance, bemused acceptance of life. I send my deepest condolences to June and Emily.