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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 ( or Haven Hospice (
Please visit his memorial page at

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Published in Gainesville Sun from Jul. 16 to Jul. 17, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
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32 entries
August 23, 2020
Hello Fay. I do not know if this will work or not but I am trying to reach you. My name is Bernadette Shea. I ran a bed and breakfast in Mabou Cape Breton many years ago. You and Tom and little Lee stayed with us. I have a wonderful story I would love to share with you. It concerns the C. D. Tom and I recorded the day you left our place. Call me if you like. My # is 1 902 890 4023. Or face time me. Hope we connect. Sincerely Bernadette. P. S. I still sing the song you taught me. “ red wing black bird”. Has always been a favourite.
Bernadette Shea
April 15, 2018
This message is late but none the less from my heart. Tom, you were an important friend. You taught me fiddling, you introduced me to other musicians, you encouraged me to grow in my fiddling and knowledge of tunes. I called you my mentor, because I could always call you and ask about various projects I was working on or just share what I was doing. Fay and Lee, I cherish any time I spent with you all as very special and experiences I keep in my heart, as i keep you in my heart, always. Tom was something special, even when he was abrupt or a little callous. He always gave me advice, even about other things than fiddling, and I always felt glad to consider him a friend. He is greatly missed. You, Fay, are also greatly loved, by Tom's friends, and by your own friends who wish you all good and hope you will find peace and the healing of your heart. Much Love, Deb
Deb Gilman
November 18, 2017
I am so saddened to hear of Tom's passing. I just heard of this news tonight from John Gordon and just can't believe he is gone. I will always remember Tom as one of the most friendly and giving individuals. Just a really good guy. I will pray for Fay and Lee
Frank Mannino
August 4, 2017
I always enjoyed the lively look on Tom's face, optimism and eagerness for the next great adventure or old Florida treasure. Larry met his match! We should all be so lucky as to have a Tom, Fay or Lee in our lives. Bye, Tom.
Valerie Roberts
August 2, 2017
Dear Fay and Lee, We are thinking of you and I think of Tom and recall the first time I met him at your house when I was new to the country and to fiddling. I much enjoyed the jam sessions and his involvement and dedication. I learned from him and am especially glad that David and I had the opportunity to drop by at the jam sessions this spring. We will miss Tom. Best wishes and strength from us three.
Annemieke Pronker-Coron
July 30, 2017
Just thinking of Tom brings a smile. Thank you for inviting us into your lives. Blessings, Peace, and Love.
Marg Chauvin & Bill Messer
July 29, 2017
Dear Fay and Lee, I am so deeply sorry for your loss . His obituary is beautiful and speaks of an amazing man and a life well lived. I know heaven will be a brighter place as Tom enriches it with his fiddle music!! FayDee Hamilton
Fay Dee Hamilton
July 26, 2017
Faye and Lee, So sad to hear about Tom. He was way too young and feisty. He will be missed and remembered. He made us feel so welcome and my thoughts are with you both now. Anita
Anita Wright
July 23, 2017
Fay and Lee ~ So sorry to hear of Tom's passing. Love to you both ❤ Tom was always such a kind and generous spirit of a man. Always so helpful to Puck. There is a community of people who really considered him friend. He will be sorrowfully missed and ever wonderfully remembered ❤ I hope to be making it up to his memorial <3
Linda Pottberg
July 21, 2017
Rest well, Tom
Thinking of you and your family, Fay, and wishing you and Lee the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other in the difficult and lonesome days ahead. Years ago (2002), I heard Barbara Kingsolver give a lecture in D.C. and someone in the audience asked her how, in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, she could speak of hope. She replied that hope wasn't an emotion but a practice. "Every morning," she said, "I put on hope with my shoes." Walk with hope, and know you're loved by so many.
Kathy Westra & George Stephens
July 21, 2017
Dear Fay,
Though we only met Tom once, well never forget our marvelous trip on the St. Johns river, with Toms fresh squoze grapefruit juice and complementary vodka, as well as the extraordinary birds and the otter family. We had such a great time! So sorry for your loss.
Kate and Geoff
Kate Spencer
July 20, 2017
I met Tom when we were working at Revere Cycle Works about 1980. He was a renaissance man, a true romantic! My father Lennie Kesl and he were kindred spirits! The world was a better place because of him. Thoughts and prayers to Fay and Lee.
Diana Kesl Studstill
July 20, 2017
Fay and Lee - many happy memories listening to all of you play music together ~ thinking of you ~ Kathy and Aaron
July 20, 2017
Dear Fay & Lee, I am very sorry for your loss of Tom. I regret that I did not have the opportunity to meet Tom. Reading his obituary I learned what an amazing husband, father, and man Tom was, and how great your loss is. Much Love, Winny
July 17, 2017
Fay and Lee I'm so saddened by your loss. He sounds like a remarkable person. I wish we would have gotten the chance to know him. I'm glad you make so many memories together as a family. Love and prayers to you from Davey and Steve Deleon
Davey Deleon
July 17, 2017
I am so sorry to hear about Tom's passing. I enjoyed talking about local history with him. I enjoyed helping him add to his very difficult Micanopy antique bottle collection.
Ron Mccormick
July 17, 2017
I have always admired Tom and especially his music. He will be greatly missed in so many ways.
Kay Van Treese
July 17, 2017
My condolences to Fay and Lee on this sad passing. Tom always seemed to me like a rock that would stand forever in the face of anything. He was a good strong soul and will be missed, and I'm sorry I hadn't seen him in a few years. My loss. Rest in peace, my friend.
steve rosen
July 17, 2017
We will miss Tom. He is one of those very special people that we are grateful to have known, even if only for a short time. Fay and Lee, we are so sorry for your loss.
Bill, Jill, and Rachel Harris
July 17, 2017
Fay, I was so surprised and sorry to hear about Tom's passing. He certainly accomplished a great deal in his short life. My heart goes out to you and Lee.
Sherry Nobles
July 17, 2017
A good man
Jim Gross
July 17, 2017
I admired the Tom I knew and lament the many Tom's I didn't know. His love of art and music knew no bounds and he was so generous in sharing his passions with others. Sending thoughts of affection and sympathy to Fay and family.
Steve Robitaille
July 16, 2017
We will so miss Tom's warm smile and gregarious personality. We'll never forget the welcoming generosity he showed our family when we first came to Gainesville. May he rest in peace.
Sandy Levy
July 16, 2017
I had more of a relationship with you, Uncle Tom, than I did with my own biological Uncle. Thanks for being such a wonderful and close friend to my family and for all the fantastic memories we shared. You will be dearly missed. <3
Erin B-P Rockafellow
July 16, 2017
Tom was the keystone - he is irreplaceable to our community as a friend and a musician. We're grateful to have known him and will miss him. Play on Tom.
Bill & Peggy Goldberg
July 16, 2017
Reading Tom's obituary makes me regret that I didn't get to know him - as a fellow anthropologist, our common Virginia Beach connection, and love of nature. He was a truly remarkable man, a Renaissance man. My sympathy and condolences to Fay, Lee, and all his family.
HG Fuller
July 16, 2017
Erin Browning-Paine & Tom Staley ~1986 Dade City Music Festival
Tom Baby, I'm heartbroken that I haven't seen you lately. My heart goes out to Fay and Lee -- I love you guys. As difficult as this is for me, I can't imagine how you are bearing it. Please let me know if there is anything at all I can do ...if only there was dear Fay Baby.
J. Dea Browning
July 16, 2017
Tom was quite a person. His music, curiosity, and commitment to community burned brightly and benefited many. His interests and skills were broad and deep. It was a privilege to know him. My heart goes out to Fay and Lee and his family and friends. He is deeply missed.
David Beede
July 16, 2017
Just so very sad. Glad I was able to enjoy many musical evenings with Tom over the years.
Susie Rudder
July 16, 2017
We'll miss you, my brother. Thanks for being such an important part of the musical memories we all shared together. My love to you, Fay and Lee.
Allen Hood
July 16, 2017
We are heartbroken to hear this news and are sending loving wishes of comfort to all the family.
Lon and Lis Williamson
July 16, 2017
We'll go to Chez Sonne`on the other side.
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