Tom Clodfelter

Celebration of Life

As you know, my Tom left us on September 1, 2020 due to Bilateral Cerebral Infarctions (aka Strokes). Covid restrictions at the time meant that honoring his memory was an impossibility. On September 4, 2021 a Celebration of Life was presented with the flying club at the little airport (VBT) he so dearly loved.

Out-of-state friends and family participated through Zoom, while the rest of us were able to fondly reminisce on the life of such a remarkable man. Life is precious! Celebrate it!

Link of the recorded zoom event!


Tom's Bench

Tom's Unparalleled Zest for Life and Learning
Tom loved practically everything
  • He built a submarine (took him 2 years)
  • Looked after 26 lions
  • Private pilot
  • Was a police officer -- started off as a dispatcher, was a SWAT team member
  • Degree in architecture
  • Instrumental in the discovery of the 600 millisecond pulsar
  • Network manager of NASA's Space Flight Operation Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Identified flaws in TCP/IP which caused a massive slowdown of network traffic.
  • Software developer and product author
  • Exotic car enthusiast
  • Animal lover
  • Poet

Cartoon from Ben Garrison
I commissioned the graphic artist, Ben Garrison to design a cartoon tribute to Tom. Ben was very enthusiastic about the idea, and developed a composition of a center (realistic) portrait of Tom surrounded by 5 cartoon vignettes from Tom's life. Finding only 5 was really tough, since there were so many highlights. And with a little artistic license, we hit upon our final composition.

The Viperfish
As a kid, Tom developed an interest in submarines that became an obsession

So he built one. It took him 2 years and named it The Viperfish. that went to a depth of 3,000 feet! And he really did paint it yellow. The Viperfish was rented by Encyclopedia Britannica and used at Scotland's Loch Ness to assist in the quest of the famous monster.

Tom's Love of Lions
Tom worked at a wild animal park, in Georgia. For years, Tom would tell the story of the lions he managed. And every time he approached the lions, Frankie, a 2 year old lion (not quite an adult), would hear Tom's jeep and come running. Frankie would jump into the passenger side of the jeep and instantly start to lick Tom like a dog. Frankie just loved Tom. Tom thought the world of Frankie - but he always told me, it was very hard showing affection to Frankie while in the jeep -- he worked in a WILD animal park. (Emphasis on the word WILD). If outside customers (who've been told to stay in their vehicle) were to see Frankie licking Tom, they might get the idea that the lions were really harmless after all. So, he had to train Frankie to hide in the footwell of his jeep.
Cartoon created by Ben Garrison of

Tom's Love of Exotic Cars
Tom absolutely LOVED fast cars. When I met him, he had a Lotus Turbo Esprit, prior to that, he owned 2 Maseratis. Later we acquired a Ferrari. He would say it's how you shop for the car. When he lived in Oregon (at the time he worked for Intel), he befriended the son of the largest car dealership in Portland. The son convinced Tom to consider acquiring an exotic car -- not the current model -- maybe a model that's 8 or 10 years older from current, and because it's an exotic, the previous owner probably never drove it, so you can find an exotic car with very low milage at a price less than a new BMW. All his cars were nice, but --quirky. Being all hand built, there could be wild variances between each car. But I think back then, the quirkiness added to the appeal for Tom. He belonged to several car clubs and would race his cars or enter them into judging contests and came away with several first prizes. When asked if he frequently broke the speed limit, he would smirk and say: "As a former police officer, I would never do that. I just get to the speed limit faster than everyone around me."
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