1953 - 2011
My beloved husband Thomas Babbin was the sweetest man I have ever known. He was shy, soft-spoken, gentle, and reserved, but he had a huge heart, full of deep love, deep kindness, and deep wisdom. He also had a wonderfully dry sense of humor – a quiet, quick, observational wit – and he made me laugh every single day. He was so smart and so knowledgeable about so many things, and yet he was also completely unassuming about his many abilities. He was an exceptionally decent man who I was blessed to have in my life. He was the love of my life, and my best friend. He was always, always there for me, and he always, always looked out for me. He was truly a rare gem, and I will love him and miss him for the rest of my life.
Edward Thomas Babbin (known by his middle name) was born in Newton, Massachusetts on May 2, 1953. His late father Frank was Nova Scotian, and his late mother Agnes was Irish-Scottish-English. Tom earned a Bachelors Degree of Music in Music Education and a Masters Degree of Music in Musicology, both from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was a folk dancer and multi-instrumentalist, and performed with the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble and the Sophia Bilides Greek Trio. He founded and operated E. Thomas Compact Discs, a CD store in Northampton, Massachusetts, specializing in classical, jazz, folk, and ethnic music. Self-taught in computers, he went on to join Boston College as an Information Technology Consultant, where he solved innumerable computer problems and challenges for 14 years, and was much admired and respected by his colleagues. Tom was an avid builder of ship and aircraft models (several of which won awards) and a member of numerous modeling clubs. He was also an avid bird watcher and nature photographer, always listening and looking for the best shot. He enjoyed hiking on Cape Cod, canoeing the Charles River, touring tall ships, following the Red Sox, reading, listening to many kinds of music, and spending time with his family and friends. Tom died on May 13, 2011 at the age of 58, after 5 months of bravely attempting to recover from a cerebral hemorrhage. He passed away peacefully, in a hospice setting. He leaves behind his loving wife, Sophia Bilides, with whom he shared 35 wonderful years, two little white dogs named Rita and Roza, his younger brothers and sister Robert Babbin, James Babbin, and Mary DuFresne, and a diverse circle of friends reflecting his many interests and accomplishments.
That’s the bare outline of a beautiful soul we lost far too soon. But as we mourn the loss, may we also celebrate the life, a special life that has passed from our sight, but never from our hearts. When I think of what made him “Tom” it’s so hard to sum up such a wonderful man, because so many vivid details come to mind, but I’d like to share a few so that you may know him a little better:
As a child, he read the encyclopedia for fun.
For reasons unknown, he was the only member of his entire family without a Boston accent.
He sang madrigals, played clarinet, and built a full-size harpsichord from a kit – all while in high school.
His undergraduate senior project was a concert - of Rennaisance drinking songs.
His graduate thesis was on the Baroque composer John Hingston, a very distant relative.
Tom was genuinely shy, but performed on stage as a folk dancer with the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble.
He and I met when I asked him to dance at a Balkan folk music night. (I didn’t know him at the time, but he was tall, which was my only requirement). He asked me out that night, and we were together from then on.
Despite rock and pop music being the biggest sellers, he never strayed from his CD store’s exclusive stocking of classical, folk, jazz, and ethnic music. The store lasted seven years.
He was a life-long, hopelessly optimistic member of Red Sox Nation, and, thankfully, lived to see them win their championships.
He was proud to wear his kilts, and on St. Patrick’s Day he would wear a kilt to work - at Boston College.
Every Thanksgiving, his sister Mary and her husband Doug and I would team up against him to play Trivial Pursuit – and he always won.
He enjoyed humor that was smart and silly, especially Monty Python and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me".
He teased me about being a perfectionist, but he would spend hours and hours working on the tiniest details of his ship and space models to get them as perfectly realistic as possible.
He once built a lute from a kit that promised completion in “one busy weekend.” It took him two years.
He read almost everything, but he especially enjoyed science fiction, history, and books on ships and spacecraft. He appreciated and always visited small, independently owned bookstores.
He admired the beauty of tall ships, and photographed them with great enthusiasm.
He enjoyed watching for birds of all kinds, and photographed them with great patience.
He especially liked great blue herons, and during our vacations to Cape Cod, he would always hike to a particular spot at the Wellfleet Auduban Sanctuary to see if any herons were in the marshes.
He became a very good cook - as he put it, in his own defense.
He learned to play the guitar specifically to accompany me at my Greek performances.
He learned about American cabaret music specifically to support my cabaret performances.
He became a dog person because I was one, and after our first dog, Bianca, he let us adopt two, as he put it, “little furballs,” Rita & Roza. When he brushed them at night, he would kiss the tops of their heads.
For his 50th birthday, instead of a red Ferrari, he bought a red canoe. This led to many beautiful canoe rides, with Tom steering in the back, me as the front paddler, and the dogs as passengers.
He gave really, really good hugs.
He loved me with a constant, total, and unconditional devotion, every single day for 35 precious years.
He will remain in my heart forever.
-- Sophia Bilides
“The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” (Thornton Wilder)
From David Bilides: Trying to distill 35 years of someone who was a member of my family – my sister’s husband – into a few paragraphs is no easy task. Instead of discrete episodes, my experience of Tom is like one big pool, where sometimes I catch a glimpse of something near the surface, or where every now and then something leaps brilliantly out of the water for a few seconds.
From Jinny Sagorin & Jeremy Schmahmann: We remember our dear friend Tom for his soft, kind, supportive manner, preferring to stay in the background, and delighting in watching his beloved Sophia shine. And Sophia’s heartfelt words at the end of every show, thanking him, saying: “Without Tom, none of this would have been possible.” It was this Sophia’s Tom whom we knew at first: the tall, smiling, softly spoken, gentle man, tirelessly working behind the scenes.
From Dia Philippides: All my thoughts of Tom are good ones. We worked together on a number of projects at Boston College. He tackled without murmur the challenge of salvaging my 20+ years of computer data, programs and results, that would otherwise have been lost, patiently capturing it all from media that was obsolete – never complaining that his corner office became quite crowded. This research was based on ancient and Renaissance Greek plays – no matter if Tom didn’t really speak or understand Greek; he was reading and juggling the titles and catch-words nevertheless, and caught on to all the intricacies. When Apple computers first upgraded and could not produce good Greek, Tom bridged the gap by setting up a PC-side to my Mac computer, which he taught me how to use. At one point we were converting and sending scholarly essays from one side of the computer to the other, and to and from Greece, with equal ease. I think that you truly recognize a person as a friend (in spirit and in deed) when you work with them. I am grateful to Tom – and shall continue to build on the progress that his input has given to me. I recognize Tom for his intelligent approaches and solutions to technical problems, for the concerned and considerate ways in which he always addressed topics from my work (understanding their importance and sharing in their challenges), and for his intrinsic nature as a gentleman. Thank you, Tom. You were a true ally in the trenches of technology – and a good friend.
From Rick Teller: I was employed at E. Thomas Compact Discs in Northampton (I think he needed someone to reach the bottom shelves), but I was one of Tom’s customers long before I worked for him.
From Scott Kinder: Tom was a terrific person and, to me, a great co-worker and friend at Boston College. We were in the same group at work, and both reported to Ted Gaiser. Tom and I were pretty good with a database tool called Filemaker. Ted was eager for us to become accomplished with a new database system. The learning curve was steep and Tom and I understood that this was a system better suited to real programmers, which neither of us had ever purported to be. Ted was having difficulty understanding why he couldn't just send us to training and instantly have two new database programmers. Tom was finally able to make him understand with this one-sentence analogy: "Ted, Scott can do a little tap-dancing and I can play the mandolin. This requires an opera singer!"
From Mat Leupold: Another dimension to Tom’s life was his membership in the USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild, the ship model club affiliated with the Constitution Museum. Tom took it upon himself to create and manage a database for keeping track of our 100 plus members, our monthly meetings, the Board of Directors (of which he was a member), our newsletter “Broadside” (of which he was editor for a time), our annual model show, and competitions. Tom also took on the job of photographing models entered in shows – he was a good photographer. Like me, his interest was in small sailing craft, and like him, I enjoyed paddling a canoe. We miss his participation in running the guild, and we miss him as a friend. There are men and there are guys. Tom Babbin was a man.
From Erica Leopold : I always thought so much of Tom, and was deeply moved by watching the way he loved Sophia, by his support for her, his obvious thrill in being her life partner, helping at her shows, his willingness to step outside his comfort zone - for her. And then I watched their last difficult chapter with awe - seeing Sophia’s loving kindness, compassion, and steadfastness was like watching a beautiful partner dance. When I think of Sophia and Tom together, the word that comes to mind is "Light." Whenever you were together, there was a visceral light that surrounded you and emminated from you - it was relaxing and beautiful and energizing to be around. I always thought to myself, “Those two have really figured out how to love." Thank you for showing me what true companionship means.
From Pip Moss: Tom first appeared (quietly and unobtrusively) at a Patriot Chapter modeling meeting in September 2009, with a paper model of Wall-E that he had downloaded from the internet and inkjet printed. Other models he brought to meetings included an American V-1 rocket, a Eurocopter Australian rescue helicopter, and a scratch-built T.I.G.E.R. research balloon gondola used for studying cosmic rays. Tom’s modeling interests were eclectic, and he built only non-military subjects. Tom quickly endeared himself to many of us with his gentle nature and subtle sense of humor, and he became a welcome addition to the post-meeting gatherings at the 99 Restaurant, which were his favorite parts of meeting nights.
From Dorothy Broadman: I remember Tom well because we were dance partners in Mandala several times due to our heights (tall). He was such a kind, patient and gentle person. I recall him struggling with the Polish suite because it required a lot of very challenging movements for the men with support from the woman partner. We worked together on it for concentrated periods of time with special attention from the choreographer. When most other people would have become impatient, annoyed, and even hostile to their partner, Tom was always kind. With great emotional balance he simply stayed focused on the task with persistence and grace. What could have been a tense, stressful situation was made easier by Tom.
From Bill Sherer: I never had the pleasure of meeting Tom. What I did have was the pleasure in his helping me through some difficult stages of my model building. Always ready with an answer, always willing to help regardless of the question asked. Known only to me through helpful emails, I have lost a true friend.
From Jan Peters: Imagine my distress as a cabaret singer when I received an email a few years back that looked like it came from a fan, but quickly realized it was full of vitriol. I was fairly hysterical and frankly a bit scared when these emails kept arriving and one actually included my home address, encouraging "fans" to drop by and show their "appreciation." I soon had to face up to my total lack of computer savvy and enlist some help. Sophia immediately put me in touch with Tom, who like a modern day Sherlock Holmes spent countless hours tracking the emails and quickly found the computer they were sent from. He made a heroic attempt to educate me in “computerese” along the way, but it was no use. Dealing with a woman in my heightened emotional state could not have been easy, but, each and every step of the way Tom was calm, incredibly patient, sympathetic and always willing to listen to the gruesome ways I was going to punish this person. Tom's technical expertise and dedicated sleuthing put an immediate end to the emails. I am forever grateful to Tom and will never forget his kindness and willingness to help at every twist and turn.
From Ken Porter: After May 13 I met with the Boston College TC Lunch Bunch at our favorite campus cafeteria. Tom used to join us. We're a group of computer geeks who gather at lunch-time to eat together, have some fun together and do some technical sharing. Sophia had asked me to let folks know at BC about "Tom's leaving" and I did that. It was a somber moment but we also remembered Tom's quiet way, his dry wit and gentle smile, and his ability to shrug off some things that just weren't all that important. After lunch, and in honor of Tom, we avoided the elevator and followed Tom's well worn path up the long outside stairs to upper campus. No one complained about being tired or out of breath. It was just what Tom would have done.
From Lisa Taddeo: One of my favorite memories of Tom would have to be St. Patrick’s Day and him coming to work at Boston College dressed up in his kilt. We would walk around the reservoir at lunch-time and Tom, not a bit shy about having a skirt on, would walk with his head held high. Every now and again we would get beeps from drivers in their cars or someone yelling out the window, “Nice legs!”
"Tom was a very special person…”
“A sweet, funny man, and clearly a wonderful husband…”
“A wonderful, gentle man who was well liked and respected…”
“Tom was a very sweet and dear colleague…”
“It was a gift to have worked with such a kind, gentle man…”
“He helped me through some rough times with his dry wit, great humor and never-ending optimism…”
“Tom was an inspiration both personally and professionally...”
“Tom was a modest yet brilliant researcher and practicant in technology, and a lovely, gentle person...”
“I remember his shy nature, but also his friendliness, his openness, and his great musical sensibility…”
“I carry memories of music, folk dancing, and a boy, then a man, of wonderful spirit...”
"I fondly remember Tom singing madrigals, so completely enjoying himself that he made us happy, too..."
“Tom was patient, kind, very knowledgeable, and a true gentleman...”
“His emails were always very knowlegable and informative, and he built some great, great models...”
“I learned about his dry sense of humor and quick wit...”
“His wry smile and twinkling eyes are the most powerful memories I have of Tom…”
“It was his humor and intelligence and rogue independence of spirit that made me love him…”
“I will remember Tom as a gentle soul who brought beauty to this world...”
“He was an amazing person, so kind hearted and good. He was a rare gem….”
“It was a blessing to have known Tom. He was a great person and he will not be forgotten….”
“He was truly a gentle soul. When I hear the birds, I think of him and his love for them…”
“He was a very special person and will be missed greatly.”
“He was a gentle and sweet man who will be remembered and missed by all who knew him….”
We cannot judge a biography by its length,
Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
I carry your heart with me
As I remember him,
|All photographs below by Thomas Babbin|
If I should die (and die I must),
(from In Spring, George C. Whitney)
I’ll be seeing you
(Irving Kahal )
If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together,
(from Winnie The Pooh, A.A. Milne)
Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light,
(In Blackwater Woods, Mary Oliver)
When you look up at the sky at night,
(from The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint Exupery)
The sky this evening,
( Mark Campbell )
I am standing on the seashore.
(Parable Of Immortality, Henry Van Dyke)