DURHAM - Thomas Minot Dudley, 83, of Durham, died in the company of his family Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Born March 14, 1930, in Boston, Tom was the son of Dr. Thomas Minot Dudley and Dorothy Gale Dudley of Concord. He was a direct descendant of Thomas Dudley, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a Founder of Harvard College.
Tom graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, Dartmouth College, and the University of Virginia Law School. He practiced family law in Portsmouth with his friend and partner David Sanderson. Tom encouraged families to focus on maintaining relationships above the details of dividing estates. If he knew a bill would be a hardship for a client, he never sent one.
Tom's philosophy in divorce cases – to focus on the best interests of children – allowed many families to remain on good terms long after the marriage had ended. Tom loved children, and brought out the best in others, practicing mediation before there was a word for it.
Sailing was Tom's lifelong passion, spanning 74 years, beginning with his first lesson at Camp Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine, and summers spent sailing catboats on Nantucket. From racing his Star boat Princess on Lake Sunapee with his brother Dick in the 1950's, to cruising Maine and the rest of the New England coast on his boats Viking, Right On, Celia and Wild Hunter from the 1960's every year through this past summer, Tom cherished time spent on the water in good company. He raced Celia, often single-handed, and while he loved winning, he never took the competition too seriously.
Tom enjoyed navigating by the stars and adjusting to changes in the weather. Among his many adventures, Tom sailed from Norway to Portugal aboard the Norwegian tall ship Sorlandet, and cruised in Greece, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas. He made several round trips from Maine to Bermuda, and sailed through the Panama Canal on his way from Costa Rica to Florida. He traveled aboard the Russian ship Professor Khromov from Ushuaia, Argentina to Capetown, South Africa, stopping along the way to pour rum on Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave in Grytviken, South Georgia.
Often the lone sailboat on the horizon in late November, for decades he hauled his boats out only once there was snow on the deck. To stay close to the water through the winter, Tom steadfastly rowed his canvas dinghy on Great Bay, solo, with 17 degrees Fahrenheit being his cutoff point, below which he would not go.
For the past 15 years, Tom spent nearly every afternoon with his granddaughter, Lauren Dudley Hallett, teaching her to sail, reading, singing and talking. They adored one another.
His enjoyment of music, art and literature; his delight in conversation, humor and friendship; and his appreciation of nature were contagious. Tom loved life.
Members of Tom's family include his wife of 57 years, Dudley Webster Dudley; his daughter Morgan, her husband, Ted Naughton, and granddaughter, Lauren of Durham; his daughter, Rebecca and her husband, John Mohr, of Evanston, Ill.; his sister-in-law. Susan Otis Dudley. of Rye; brother-in-law, Robert Gideon Webster and his wife, Els Mouwen, of Portsmouth; his brother, Peter Hubbard Dudley; and his nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his brother, Richard Hamilton Dudley of Rye.
Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals provided safe harbor to Tom from April to November for over 50 years. Memorial contributions to Star Island are welcome, and may be sent to The Star Island Corporation, 30 Middle St., Portsmouth, N.H. 03801.
A celebration of Tom's life will be held Thursday, June 19, at Portsmouth Yacht Club in New Castle.
Sailor, rest your oar.