My old friend Tom Cain died early this morning in a Roanoke hospital, where he had been for a spell. His troubled heart finally gave out after years of threatening to. Tom was in his 70s. I’m not sure exactly where, but he was probably lucky to still be around–and contributing–for as long as he was.
Tom was a retired architect, a staunch environmentalist, a political essayist of a leftist persuasion who revered his native West Virginia, though he often detested the politicians who have laid waste to it.
He was a kindly intellectual, gentle, soft-spoken and persuasive. He could get mad and he could take issue enthusiastically, but he didn’t do that often. He listened in order to hear and he was intelligent enough to learn from those who disagreed with him.
He stood before City Council as a group and individual councilmen often, selling his vision of Roanoke. Here is Tom going on about one of his favorite proposed Roanoke projects, one that combined development, education and environmentalism:
“The Lick Run Watershed is a profound educational resource–if we don’t continue to lay waste to it … It would be an unforgivable to bury the unique environmental and cultural potential available at Evans Spring under the banality of unnecessary and unwanted commercial development.”
His solutions were always practical, always had the whole in mind. He was not an environmentalist who never thought of business or development. He worked hard to see the two work together to produce the best results possible for all of us. We don’t see a lot of that kind of thinking, but Tom was clear in the head, always clear.
He could go on … and on … about his projects, but that only showed his passion.
I think a lot of life went out of Tom a few years ago when his almost constant companion, Ann Masters–another strong environmentalist and voice of reason–died on an icy December night when, like Tom, her heart failed. He was sad and lonely, I think, after that. But the passion for saving the earth and its people remained.
I’m sorry he died during the Trump Administration when so much of our hope for the future of our way of life has diminished. Tom, I think, would have liked to see the light in our future, a light that is quite dim now. And with his passing, it is even dimmer.
But, as Tom so frequently said, “Be of good cheer.”