Tom Davis

Tom Davis testifying against human services budget cuts - 2010
Tom Davis testifying against human services budget cuts (photo vtdigger.org, 2010)

1931-2017

Thomas C. Davis, 85, of Wildersburg Common, Barre, VT, long time Board Member of the Barre Historical Society, died unexpectedly on the evening of February 16, 2017.

He was a seventeenth generation Vermonter, political activist, public speaker, storyteller, author and statesman. Also known as “Tom Terrific”, he was widely admired for his quick wit, humor, humility, kindness, wisdom and generosity. He valued tolerance, forgiveness, compassion and activity, and lived his life accordingly.

Tom was born in Barre, Vermont on November 30, 1931, his parents were the late Governor Deane C. Davis and Corinne Eastman Davis, also of Barre. He graduated from Spaulding High School in 1949 and earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Vermont. He was married in 1952 to his best friend Delores “Dolly” Pruneau also of Barre. Over their 65 years together they raised nine children and enjoyed traveling and spending time together with a vast network of friends and family.

He was the author of two novels and three memoirs, and had a long and distinguished career in public administration. After a brief stint in the insurance industry, he spent the rest of his life helping the poor and disadvantaged members of society. He was the founder of the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity under the administration of former Governor Philip Hoff, and was appointed as Secretary of the Agency of Human Services under the administration of former Governor Tom Salmon. He later became the State Director for Senator Patrick J. Leahy until he was appointed as the former Regional Representative for the U. S. Department of Labor under Secretary Robert Reich.

Indifferent to material success, Tom often pronounced that he was born with a “social justice gene”. He was a strong advocate of supporting the economy through a focus on human resource needs, organized labor and substance abuse counseling. Up to just a few months before his death, he was actively engaged in lobbying and supporting the development of services related to employment and training, mental health, and elder care.

In addition to his membership on the Board of the Barre Historical Society, he was on the boards of numerous other organizations in Barre and around northern Vermont including the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE), the American Heart Association, and the Vermont Labor History Society. Other memberships included the Vermont Democratic Party, the Country Club of Barre, and the Mutuo, Inc. in Barre.

Like his father, Tom was “conditioned to Vermont” and connected with people in almost every corner of the state. A great storyteller, he often reminisced about the people he met from all walks of life. He was in the midst of recording and transcribing oral histories with Barre Historical Society Program Chair Mark Greenberg. Those materials will be available here on the Old Labor Hall website as soon as the project is completed. He also recorded several Vermont Public Radio commentaries.

Tom engaged in many hobbies and passions including classical music, literature, chess, baseball, skiing, rooting for the “mighty New York Giants”, and golf. Golf was a passion he was able to enjoy even during the last couple of years as his health began to fail. Humble, yet astute, he often announced that “anyone can play golf with a good swing – try playing golf with my swing.” This remark was typical of the many one-liners he used to entertain anyone who would listen.

Survivors include his wife Delores, 85, his nine children and their spouses, Michael Davis and his wife Sylvia, of Barre, Corinne Davis of Montpelier, Linda and Duane Chambers of Brookfield, Julie Davis of Williston, Timothy Davis of Ocala, Florida, Daniel Davis and his husband Steve Chalmers of Colchester, Dawn Davis Wolk and her husband Jay of Fairfield, Connecticut, David Davis and his wife Danna of Bethesda, Maryland, and Richard Davis of Poughkeepsie, New York. He is also survived by ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren as well as more distant relatives. He was predeceased by his sister Marion Davis Calcagni, her husband Frank of Ocala, Florida, and a beloved grandson, Bentley Davis Seifer.

Calling hours will be from 5-7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at the Hooker Whitcomb Funeral Home on 7 Academy Street in Barre, Vermont. A time of fellowship and remembrance will be celebrated at the Old Labor Hall on Granite Street in Barre on Friday, February 24th from 3-6 pm. Later internment will occur at the Elmwood Cemetery in Barre at a time convenient to his family.

Memorial contributions are encouraged to benefit the Old Labor Hall.