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Dear Tom,

I once told you that I write better than I speak and so I am turning to the lost art of letter writing  to try to express my thoughts and feelings, so that others might understand.  This should be sent to heaven but there is no address and anyway, I expect you would say that Cora, Wyoming was heaven and your many friends are “heavenly folk.”  Maybe they are practicing up for angel-hood.  Can’t you just see Kip with his cherubic face with wings and a halo?   What a sweet man.  I hope that boy angels do not have to wear white dresses ~ that would not be fitting for Kip nor for you.  Tom, you can say as did William Butler Yeats said:  “Think where man’s great glory begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends. “

Thanks to Jessie, Claude and I met you.  We liked you from the get-go and over the years we two Librans had some good times understanding each other’s idiosyncrasies.  Idiosyncrasies?  What?  We were just normal and balanced, whereas the rest of the world was wanting.  Actually, I thougtht I was a T-crosser and an I-dotter but I could not hold a candle to you.  I’ll tell  you Tom, your books and records for Karibu were models of perfection.  This Libran could take a lesson from you. 

Death is always with us so why should it be so difficult to accept and why should I feel so sad?  We never want to give  up those whom we love ~ a hole is left within us which is never filled.  It becomes a part of the fabric of our lives.  You added a lovely color to my tapestry. 

Thank you for wanting to see us one more time ~ thank you for raising the bar for servanthood (you are a deacon) ~ thank you for encouraging me when I could not pull a sermon together.  You would say:  “Put those books and papers down and preach your heart.”  Old friend, I have not attained that level yet.

It was pure joy to watch you with the people of Tanzania, especially the children that hung around you like bees to honey.  Tell me, have you ever met a stranger?   Language was no barrier.  There was real heart-swaping going on there.  Old and young ~ you were loved.  When someone asked me how the trip had gone for  you I said that you cried a lot.  You won’t mind that I shared your tenderness of spirit with others.  I’ll miss you, Tom ~ miss your checking in with Claude and me and James at least once a week. 

Ask God if gmail is his address.  If so, check your inbox.

As ever, your friend, Tally

TOM was a man born in Georgia, lived in Connecticut as well as other places while he worked for IBM.  I didn’t know him until he lived in Wyoming.  I met him through friends who knew I wanted to paint scenes of the West.  We met in Atlanta at the Episcopal Church.  After the service, we had lunch with his son, Tom, and his family  and made arrangements for me to go out that winter to see if we could put something together in the way of friendship.  We did and I came back out that summer.  Tom “rented” chickens for my Birthday and he and his son, Will, fashioned a part of the barn as a coop for four hens and a rooster.  We enjoyed eggs aplenty, and the sound of the rooster, though some of his neighbors did not appreciate the rooster!

Wyoming suited Tom.  He loved the open spaces, big sky, wind, wildlife, land to raise and ride his horses.  But it was the people he really loved – hardworking, self-reliant, practical, and down to earth.  Their work so physical and anchored to the land.  He introduced me to his friends who have become my friends and enriched my life immeasurably.  Many of them permitted me to tag along on their labors, driving cattle, hay making (the last time rancher, Dave Noble used the Buck Rake and Beaver Slide method which was a beautiful choreography of men, tractor and buck rake. (I think you can google that).  On another winter trip I rode out with a young rancher on a sledge of hay pulled by two big draught horses through the snow.  The wind was fierce, icicles formed on the horses mouths as well as the mustache and eyebrows of the rancher.  Wonderful paintings came of that.  On another outing, haying Elk, I fell of the sledge when the horses moved on and fell onto the antlers of an Elk.  Ended up in the ER for stitches from that one.

Then there was Kip and Bonnie Alexander!  Their ranch was down the road from Tom’s.  When Tom told them he was bringing down a friend from the East to see their operation for painting subjects, Bonnie told me she didn’t expect to see a woman in old wellingtons who knew how to muck out a barn.  We became fast friends, and I took many photos of them branding, castrating and giving shots to cattle which also became paintings.  I left a painting with each rancher as a way of thanking them for sharing their work with me.

Tom and I would ride up in the hills through fields of wild flowers and sage brush.  The smell of the sage as the horses plowed through it was pure elixer.  I was surprised to see Tom strap a holster with a 45 pistol on before we mounted the horses.  “What’s that for?”  I asked.  Grizzlies and rattlesnakes were the answer.  We don’t have those in my neighborhood here.

The people there often converse with a minimal amount of words; many live in solitude, especially in winter when they cannot get off their ranches by vehicle with the deep snow.  When they do speak, much is conveyed by the way the say it and their body language and I came to love their economy of words as did Tom, who talked the same way (except in Tanzania, where his Southern roots came out and he talked with everyone at great length).

Tom started the Land Trust in that part of Wyoming, and we went to many a party – barn dances – which looked like something right out of Hollywood.  Men in boots, jeans and big hats, women the same though some wore skirts with their boots.  Young and old, everyone danced and danced WELL!  For more information on Land Trust’s you can google that as well.

On Tally’s and my first trip to Tanzania, I worte a journal and sent it to a few close friends.  A few of them asked if they could help.  There was my dear friend, Karl, in Germany, who has done so much for the Primary School in the way of scholarships, teacher’s salaries, and now buying a bus!  Tom wanted to help as well, so Tally and I made a trip out to Wyoming in the dead of winter (my favorite time) and made presentations at St. Andrew’s church in Pinedale, and a church in Big Piney.  It was night and 30 below zero.  Tally couldn’t imagine ANYONE coming out in that cold and at night, but all were there with hot coffee waiting.  These two churches gave so much of their treasure for scholarships for the children as well as adults.  They have such an empathy for the subsistence farmers in Tanzania, being farmers themselves.  Tom also learned of a grant he could apply for from the Diocese of Wyoming, and got it.  $150,000, spread over three years.  What a life saver that has been.  This is the last year and now we are trying to create an endowment fund and raise $1,000,000. so that the two schools will be less vulnerable year after year.

Tom put in a herculean effort in managing this fund that the three large books, one for each year, will be taken to the Diocese of Wyoming as an example of how to run such a project!!!

Tally and I will be ever grateful that he got to go to Tanzania last autumn and meet the people he helped and they him.  Tom had lived in two worlds,but died in the one he loved most.  Jessie

Tom Davenport

October 1934-March 2012

It is with tears I write about our dear friend, Tom who died Sunday.  Tally and I drove out to Wyoming to say goodbye and spend four days with Tom, and are so thankful to have had that time with him.  I first met Tom 7 or 8 years ago, and spent time at his “place” meeting his friends, ranchers, and painting them at work.  We had a wonderful summer and our friendship grew and expanded to Tom’s becoming involved in our work in Tanzania.  Tally and I made a trip out there to speak with Tom’s church in Pinedale as well as another small church in Big Piney.  These churches and Tom’s work in obtaining a huge grant from the Diocese of Wyoming provided three years of enormous support for the people at Msalato Theological College, Bishop Stanway Primary School, and other individuals in need.  Tom came with us this past summer to Tanzania to meet the people he has helped and won the hearts of everyone he came into contact with, remembered everyone’s name, even children who called him “Mr. Tom”!  I would like to write more about Tom, but will do so later.  Tally and I arrived home last evening after driving almost 7,000 miles and need to get my scattered thoughts and emotions in order before writing more.  I would like to add that the people in Tanzania were with us in spirit through this entire journey, and will be having a Thanksgiving service for Tom there at Msalato Chapel this coming Friday.  There is an empty chair at our table of friends…we will miss him sorely.  Jessie and Tally

When Tally and I returned from our time in Tanzania the summer of 2010, we gave a Kanga, which had been given to us, to the congregation of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church.  We thought they would use it as a wall hanging or table cloth.  However, Jean Brown, the wife of Rev. Robert Brown, created this beautiful Chasuble for the Lenten Season.  Jean told us she is NOT a semstress and how difficult it was to “cut and paste” to transform the Kanga into this lovely clerical robe.  Father Bob commented that he saw a meaningul metaphor in the Zebra: “The stripes representing the black and white people who are working together in harmony”.  A scientific fact is that the stripes on the Zebra confuse flies, hence Zebras are not menaced by flies as are the other animals on the plains of Africa.

Perhaps some of the Tanzanian clergy will use Kangas in their clerical robes too.  Thank you, Jean, for creating such a lovely and eloquent garment!

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