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Thomas M. ODell

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Thomas M. ODell Obituary
Thomas M. ODell of Westbrook, CT passed away in the early hours of the morning on July 28, 2018 from complications of ALS. He endured the progressive decline of this disease for three years with dignity and courage. He is survived by his wife of over 33 years, Carol ODell, his daughter Carrie ODell and husband Aaron Tripp, his son Patrick ODell and wife Rachel ODell, grandsons Ryan, Kevin and Christopher ODell, and his twin brother Richard O'Dell. Thomas was born on July 27, 1934 in Port Washington, New York, the son of Vidle and Richard O'Dell. He graduated from Glastonbury High School and UCONN majoring in Forest entomology. He spent two summers out west fighting forest fires and studying insect pests of forest trees before joining the USDA Forest Service in Hamden, CT where he researched biological control methods of white pine weevil and gypsy moth for over 40 years. He also served in the Army National Guard as a medic. Tom fostered his boyhood hobbies of observing nature, identifying insects and interest in the environment, into his career at the Forest Service. After retirement, he turned his "vocation into his avocation" and delved more deeply into his environmental interests in a volunteer capacity. As chairman of the Conservation Commission of Westbrook for 48 years, Tom dedicated himself to protecting watersheds and water quality. Developing the Menunketesuck Greenway and acquiring land for open space conservation helped accomplish this goal, and also protects vernal pools. He developed several hiking trails for natural recreation. Through his personal efforts and grant writing, 20% of Westbrook's land is held as open space conservation areas. Tom was also chairman of the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District for more than 30 years and a member of the board for over 40 years, a founding member of the Connecticut Association of Conservation Commissions, and the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions (CACIWC) editing their newsletter, The Habitat, for many years. He also served as chairman of the Rockfall Foundation's awards committee and youth scholarship award committee which recognize those who work to protect the environment. He served on several other conservation boards, but in the last few years he was active and dedicated to Friends of Westbrook Barrier Islands, helping to protect island wildlife habitat and ensuring proper island use. In 2016 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Rockfall Foundation. Also that year, the town of Westbrook acknowledged his contributions at a tribute held at Water's Edge. The town honored Tom by designating an area of Long Island Sound encompassing three barrier islands, Salt, Menunketesuck and Duck, as The Tom ODell Wildlife and Conservation Area. That night, the Westbrook Foundation initiated the Tom ODell scholarship fund for students pursuing education in conservation, environmental and scientific studies. Last year he received the Beacon Award presented by Shore Publishing, being one of 15 honored for special accomplishments. While ALS robbed Tom of his speech, his powerful instrument for achieving his environmental goals, he carried on without complaint, using his communication device or pads of paper to keep his messages strong right up until his hospitalization. He was a gentle, patient and dedicated man with an impish wit, and will be missed by many. A memorial service will be held for Tom on September 15, 2018 at 11 AM at the First Congregational Church of Westbrook Connecticut. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either of two funds. For the Tom ODell Scholarship Fund, checks should be written to the Westbrook Foundation with a note in the memo section identifying "The Tom ODell Scholarship Fund" as the donation's destination. Send checks to Westbrook Foundation, PO Box 528, Westbrook, CT 06498. Donations may also be sent to the Friends of Westbrook Barrier Islands by making a donation to the town of Westbrook and noting in the memo section "In memory of Thomas ODell for Friends of Westbrook Barrier Islands" and mailing to The Town of Westbrook, PO Box 528, Westbrook, CT, 06498.

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Published in The Hartford Courant on Aug. 29, 2018
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