Thomas Weakley

Sunderland, VT – Thomas Weakley—Tom Weakley died Monday January 16 at Brookdale Fillmore Pond in Bennington. Born Thomas Ellsworth Weakley on April 12, 1929 in Jamestown, NY, he graduated from Jamestown High School and received a B.A. in Magazine Journalism from Syracuse University in 1951.

He was denied conscientious objector status during the Korean War and was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served with the Third Marine Air Wing. After the war, in an effort to serve society in other than a military capacity, he took a job as an orderly in a U.S. Public Health Service hospital in Seattle. On the train to Seattle, he met Barbara Campbell from Floral Park, NY.

A correspondence followed and six months later he returned to New York to become an Associate Editor at Printers’ Ink magazine. He and Barbara were married in Garden City, NY on October 15, 1955.

In 1958, the couple moved to Sunderland, VT to become craftsmen, establishing Highland Candles, which became better known locally as The Candle Mill in East Arlington. Over the years they sold their candles (made in antique tin candle molds) to stores and individuals across the country.

After selling the candle business in 1990, Weakley became a professional storyteller. His career included an appearance on the main stage of the National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee and an invitation from the Library of Congress to perform on The Mall in Washington, D.C. In 1999 he was invited to perform in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, Australia. He produced six recordings of folk tales, mythology, historical and personal stories, including a dramatic retelling of the 1864 Confederate raid on St. Albans, VT.

Weakley was an early organizer of Vermont’s first hospice organization in Bennington County and assisted in writing the manual for volunteers. He was a hospice volunteer for more than 20 years, serving for a time as president of the Bennington County chapter.

He was active in the Federated Church of East Arlington and was a past member of the Arlington Fire Co. His curiosity led him to enlist in several expeditions with the international Earthwatch organization: excavating an ancient pueblo village in New Mexico, interviewing returning migrant workers in Barbados, and recording native storytellers in the mountain villages of Dominica. In northern Nigeria, he and other volunteers sought to discover potable water sources in The Sahel.

Tom was preceded in death by his wife Barbara, who passed away in 2015. He is survived by his son Christopher Weakley of Sherman Oaks, CA, his daughter Margaret (Meg) Oceanna of Westminster West VT, three grandchildren, Rosalie Oceanna-Kolb and Tristan and Faustine Chonavel-Weakley, and several nieces and nephews and their children.

A memorial service will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, Tom asks everyone to vote Democratic.

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