Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris of 1400 Kennedy Drive, Key West, was buried-at-sea on Friday, June 4th. In keeping with his final wish, a funeral service was held aboard ship, during which he was dropped over the side 12.5 miles offshore in the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean where the Gulf Stream touches the coast of Florida. Thomas passed peacefully at his home on April 28, 2021, at age 73 from pulmonary fibrosis, first diagnosed in March 2015.

June 4th was chosen because it was the 43rd anniversary of his leaving Boston harbor, MA as Captain of L’Esprit Libre, a 22 foot Bermuda rigged sloop, accompanied by his cat Abel, who was given the rank of Able Seaman, and his college friend Tim Ditzler, who served as First Mate. His seamanship and good luck ensured a successful landing at Gibraltar on August 1, 1978 after a 50 day passage at sea, excluding a one-week stopover at Flores in the Azores.

Thomas began work in 1969 in the management and financing of not-for-profit organizations. From 1979 to 2004 he was located firsts in London, then Amsterdam and then Paris where he developed his own professional practice which included five of the leading international business schools, leading universities in five countries, leading orchestras and concert halls throughout Europe, international schools and NGOs in 20 countries. His resume shows the top 92 campaigns he advised.

Thom is the author of the first reference book on fund raising covering 18 countries, still in print and sold on Amazon, and founding member of The World Fundraising Council where he served from 1988-1999. He became fluent in French and understood Dutch, Spanish and Italian. He also became a master chef in the French school of cooking.

Known for his dry wit and repartee, Thom retired to Key West in 2008 where he lived aboard his yacht L’Esprit Libre II, a 35 foot Tayana, off Key West Bight until he moved ashore in May 2020. He became a much-loved volunteer for the Literacy Volunteers of America where he taught English as a second language as well as serving as a receptionist in the office of the Lions Club Eye Clinic.

Thom was born December 17, 1947 in Watertown, NY. He graduated with a BA degree in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD in 1969. He is survived by his sister Dorothy Harris Tuzzi (Fred) of Columbus, Ohio, his daughter Anna Harris Ghen (Matt) and his three grandchildren Willem, Elsbeth, and Benjamin of Springfield, VA, and his daughter Julie Harris Ponchet de Langlade of Paris, France. His family and friends in Europe and the U.S. will participate in a Celebration of his Life held on Zoom on Sunday, June 13th. He is missed by all who knew him.

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