Remembering Tom Anderson – Robert Upchurch’s Eloquent Memorial

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June 30, 2015, Raleigh, NC: Good afternoon. My name is Bob Upchurch. I have been blessed to enjoy a long and quite wonderful friendship with Jane and Tom Anderson. Tom has been as great and good a friend as one might wish for. Any attempt I might make to distill the delights of our fifteen year relationship into a few pages would be unsuccessful. So today I want to share a few of those good memories with you by reflecting briefly.

When I was a boy – and when Tom was a boy – for we were not far apart in years – the business of making friends was entirely a matter of proximity. After-school and weekend play was free-form and unstructured. Basketball games were in a neighbor’s driveway where a goal had been mounted above the garage door. You could play sandlot football or baseball – if your neighborhood still had an empty lot. But the friends you could make were limited by how far you could ride your bike and still be home in time for dinner. The pleasures of childhood now seem, with the benefit of hindsight, to have been almost universal – exploration, games, sports, play-acting, cowboys and Indians, and such.

Adult friendships are of course not forged as easily as kids choosing up sides for a ball game. They are, like children’s relationships, also based on shared interests, but as a rule represent more-deeply felt connections and a lifetime of discovery and refinement of our tastes and preferences. Adult friendships are based on decisions about who we really care to spend our scarce hours with, and they demand a commitment of one’s self.

Tom and I founded our friendship on a shared, enormous enthusiasm for the performing arts, especially symphonic music and the music of small ensembles, an enthusiasm which also frequently spilled over into opportunities for culinary explorations and many long conversations.

Fifteen years ago I sat at the large conference table used by the governors of Saint Mary’s School as a new board member for the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. It was my great good fortune that I found myself seated beside a tall, fit-looking fellow with wavy salt-and pepper-hair who introduced himself as Tom Anderson, and said he was an attorney. Over the course of the next six years of our work together on that board, Tom and I enjoyed lots of splendid music and had lots of after-meeting parking-lot conversations, which ultimately became a treasured adult friendship.

Then still practicing law, and having recently also joined the violinists of the Chapel Hill Philharmonia, Tom gave generously of his time and effort to the Guild, serving first as Vice-President and then as President of the Guild board. For the orchestra he was equally generous, serving for an extended time as their personnel manager.

As one who plays no instrument, I was always extremely impressed by Tom’s serious dedication to his hobby. He took private violin lessons continuously, practiced his orchestra parts with great diligence, and rarely missed an orchestra rehearsal. It has always been a delight to go to Chapel Hill to hear Tom and our many musician friends of the Philharmonia perform.

I have not myself been “one half of a couple” for many years, so in my outings with Tom and Jane I could very easily have been a fifth wheel, but they together welcomed me into their family life and entertainment outings with the enthusiasm and warmth appropriate to a brother. Traveling to concerts usually involved ride-sharing and splendid dining experiences – and occasionally at the evening’s end it would be very difficult to decide whether the music, the meal, or the camaraderie deserved the highest marks. It was on those occasions that we frequently could share news and reviews of our music experiences, talk about the new books on the reading table and the movies on the screen, completely resolve all of the world’s most pressing troubles for that particular day, and be sure everyone was up-to-date on news about the world’s very best children and grandchildren.

Particularly following his retirement from practicing law, I have been regularly delighted by much-enjoyed lunchtime visits with Tom – in the pursuit of trying out as many of the new and sometimes unusual dining choices which sprout up with regularity in Durham where I work.

Any recounting of Tom’s appealing and valued attributes that propelled our friendship would make for a very long litany.

* Tom was first and foremost a man with a firm foundation of personal morality and an enduring ethical code.

* He was a skilled attorney.

* He was faithful to his duty to his country when called to serve.

* He was a careful and able pilot in the skies.

* He cared deeply and seriously about holding up his end of the musical bargain that every player commits to when joining an orchestra.

* He was an engaging conversationalist and a superb teller of stories.

* He was a deliberate and diligent seeker of truth.

* He was a true master of the barbecue grill on the patio.

* He was a diligent, active board member for our chamber music organization.

* But above all else, Tom has been a devoted, loving, and thoughtful husband and father, and a wise parent.

That Tom has untimely left us now leaves an enormous void. His leaving has come much too early. There are still symphonies not yet played, fascinating books of history not yet read, and daughters and grandchildren not yet adequately spoiled by a doting grandfather.

But he does not leave without having shown us all the finest evocations of humanity – love of family and friends, earnestness, fair dealing and a good-hearted nature, the joy found in work well done, the rewards of dedication to a pursuit, an appetite for study, the delights of family life, extraordinary personal warmth, and exemplary generosity.

For me Tom’s spirit will be present whenever the concertmaster stands before the orchestra and the oboe sounds its tuning pitch. We will all be blessed indeed as we recognize the reflection of these wonderful attributes of Tom’s spirit in others as we go about our lives in years to come. We will all honor Tom’s memory and spirit most fully and most satisfactorily by carrying forward his exemplary character ourselves as our own days proceed.

Note: These remarks, delivered June 30 at First Presbyterian Church during the memorial service for Tom Anderson, are reprinted here with the author’s permission.

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