February 27, 1938 - October 24, 2020
Olympia, Washington - Thomas E Fell was born in Chicago, IL, the middle of three children of Dr. Egbert Fell and Florence Warner Fell. Inspired by the charity work of his parents, Tom graduated from medical school at the University of Chicago, completed his internship at the University of Iowa, and then joined the U.S. Navy to serve his country during the Vietnam War.
He volunteered for two tours in Vietnam and was honored to serve as a General Medical Officer with the United States Marine Corps on village patrols and at a M.A.S.H. unit in Da Nang, Vietnam from 1964-1966. Moved by the incredible skills of those with whom he served, he decided to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist. Upon his return from Vietnam in 1966, he married Suzanne Mary Stanton at the University of Chicago Graham Taylor Chapel. The couple had 2 children and were married for 54 years at the time of his death.
After completing his anesthesia residency at the University of Washington in 1970, Tom was recruited by Dr. George Bray and Dr. Rodney Brown, and the three of them started an anesthesia group at St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington. This was the beginning of a career dedicated to anesthesiology, volunteer work overseas, and serving the Olympia community.
In 1973, he took a year-long leave of absence and, along with Suzanne and his two young daughters, moved to Kingston, Jamaica to volunteer with Project Hope.
Upon his return to Olympia in 1974, he and Dr. Brown established Thurston County Medic One, the first public, county-wide, tiered response EMS system in the United States. Tom proudly served as its first Medical Program Director, trained some of the best paramedics in the country, and, as a result, improved cardiac arrest survival in Thurston County. He served on the Board of Medic One until 2018 when, after 44 years of service, he became the first member Emeritus. Dr. Fell also helped organize the St. Peter Hospital School of Nurse Anesthetists and aided in the plan for the hospital's original ICU unit. Dr. Fell's selfless devotion to the Olympia community saved and improved countless lives.
During the years of 1978-79 and 1981-82, Dr. Fell and his family moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he developed a program, through United Mission to Nepal, teaching nurses to become Nurse Anesthetists in order to deliver safer anesthesia. He eventually took his program all over the world, and, to adapt the delivery of anesthesia to any region of the world, he invented an anesthesia machine that could be used without power.
He continued his long, dedicated worldwide volunteer work teaching and administering anesthesia in Cameroon, Pakistan, Madagascar, Zaire, Malawi, India, Uganda, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Armenia, Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Togo, Ethiopia, and Liberia. He returned multiple times to many countries and often partnered with Health Volunteer Overseas, International Relief Teams, Global Relief and Children's Services and Mercy Ship. Though he was a long time member of Westminster Presbyterian Church his faith, he often said, was shown through his work.
After retiring from St. Peter Hospital in 2004, and not one to sit around, Tom continued his active involvement in the community. He volunteered with the Sea Scouts, was a Big Brother in the Big Brother Big Sister program, and tutored students at the Lacey Boys and Girls Club, Nisqually Middle School, Chinook Middle School, North Thurston HS, and the After School Tutoring Program at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
Tom, first and foremost, was a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather. He was heavily involved in the lives of his grandchildren, and nothing was more important to him than his family. His sense of outdoor adventure and travel took the Fell family to many outreaches of the Himalayas, India, SE Asia, Africa, and Europe. He also was a very passionate sailor, and the ocean was his second home. He spent many years racing sailboats in the Puget Sound and was an active member of the South Sound Sailing Society.
Dr. Fell is survived by his wife, Suzanne; his daughters Elizabeth Fell Pauldine of Seattle and Catherine Fell Niemann of Olympia; brother, Jack Fell, of Miami, FL; and his four grandchildren, Michael, Charlotte, Alex and Abigail, who all loved him very much.
Tom Fell was an extraordinary human: brilliant, kind, ever generous with his time and money, and loved by his family, countless friends, and coworkers. He touched many lives all over the world.
The Fell family is grateful to the Medic One community for their kindness and are honored by their support.
Remembrances can be sent to the Rodney Brown and Tom Fell Scholarship Award, c/o Thurston County Medic One, 2703 Pacific Ave. SE, Suite C, Olympia, WA 98501; The Boys and Girls Club of Thurston Co, WA – 2424 Heritage Ct. SW #301, Olympia 98502 directed to Lacey; and The Dr. Thomas Fell Endowed Scholarship in Healthcare Fund at SPSCC, 2011 Mottman Rd SW Olympia, 98512. https://spscc.edu/foundation
A formal celebration of Tom's life will happen when we can all gather safely together.
Published by The Olympian on Nov. 8, 2020.