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Thomas Harold Staley of Micanopy, Florida, died at his home on July 10, 2017 of cancer. He was 67 years old.
Many will remember Tom foremost as a musician. He began his lifelong love of music by learning guitar and harmonica in the early 1960s, and became a sought-after accompanist on guitar. During his life and travels in the western United States he became interested in American fiddle music. He learned the violin and taught fiddle music to countless students, including-most proudly-to his only son, Lee. Tom saw music as a way of life as much as a collection of melodies. He helped to found the Florida State Fiddlers Association in 1980 and served on its board for many years.
Tom was born on July 24, 1949 at Bethesda Naval Hospital to Henry Eller Staley and Christine M. Hansen. The son of a Navy Judge Advocate General Corps officer, Tom spent his childhood in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and his early teenage years in Bartlett, Tennessee and in Yokohama, Japan (1962-1965). The family's return trip to the United States in 1965 was through India and parts of Europe, and formed the basis for his lifelong appreciation for travel. He graduated from Bartlett High School in 1967.
He initially moved to Gainesville in 1969 with his family when his father decided to relocate to Florida upon his retirement from the Navy. Tom returned to Gainesville in 1978, after earning a B.A. in Anthropology from Florida Atlantic University in 1972 and living in the western United States, including several years as a ranch hand in Wyoming. Throughout his life he was a craftsman, carpenter and artisan. He was a set carpenter at the Hippodrome State Theater in the early 1980's and his skill with metalwork led to collaborations with the late Gainesville artist Lennie Kesl, a close friend with whom he constructed several large sculptures in the late 1980s. Later he worked in job placement and workman's compensation support programs for the Federal and State Departments of Labor and for private firms.
In 1997 he established Staley's Generally Dry Goods, an antiques store and art gallery in downtown Micanopy. He developed a passion for Florida landscape paintings, and in 2017 he wrote and published a book about the German-American artist Herman Ottomar Herzog, entitled Herman Herzog: Painter of the Waccasassa.
In 1982, Tom moved to Micanopy where he began to host open music sessions at his home on the first Wednesday of every month, a tradition that continued uninterrupted for 35 years until he became ill in May 2017. It was at these sessions that Tom welcomed many newcomers to the local community. He served for several years on the Micanopy Planning and Historic Preservation Board and was active in Micanopy community organizations, notably the Thrasher Warehouse Preservation Corporation.
For Tom, Florida's natural history was sacred, and in the past decade he became devoted to activities to restore native longleaf pine ecosystems, seedling by seedling. On his property in southern Alachua County he devoted his seemingly boundless energy to establishing and cultivating habitats for wiregrass, gopher tortoises, and other native species. He considered restoration of these ecosystems on his land to be amongst his proudest accomplishments.
Tom is survived by Sarah Fay Baird, his wife of 25 years; his son, Lee Baird Staley of Boston, Massachusetts; his sister Susan Eckhart of Jacksonville, Florida; and his brother James Staley of Midlothian, Virginia. His many friends and extended family will especially treasure memories of his endless reserves of energy, love of the outdoors, gift for connecting with strangers, love of his family, and talent for being at the center of fiddle music sessions all over the country.
A memorial service will be held at the Church of the Mediator in Micanopy on August 5, 2017 at 10 AM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center (donate.splcenter.org) or Haven Hospice (havenhospice.org).
Please visit his memorial page at

Published in Gainesville Sun from July 16 to July 17, 2017
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