Mr. Thomas “Tom” “Tadpole” Maben Dick passed away at 7:03 a.m. on July 30, 2022, after a brief battle with COVID-19. He was 80 years old.
Tom was born Aug. 10, 1941, in Ferndale Borough, Cambria County, near Johnstown, Pa. He was the only son of Dwight and Nedra Dick.
Tom had a free ranging childhood. He jumped trains and hitch-hiked before he could drive. He loved the outdoors.
Tom made headlines when, at the age of 11, when he fell off the 60-foot Ferndale Cliff near the Stony Creek River. He survived by landing in mud but had to wear a body cast for 11 months. The injury left him with a large scar on his shoulder and a slightly shortened right arm that would later disqualify him from the draft. The scar was fodder for many a made-up story, typically involving pirates and crocodiles, that he told to entertain his children.
A youthful prankster, Tom was expelled from Westmont High School for coloring the chemistry lab reagents with jujubes and after placing a mousetrap in a desk drawer to catch a teacher.
Tom became serious about his studies during his senior year at Johnstown High School, which he attributed to his social isolation. He was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and obtained a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. Tom and his wife, Sally (a medical doctor), got their first jobs in North Conway, N.H., but returned to Johnstown in 1967. At the age of 26, Tom built the Richland Veterinary Hospital, where he worked until his retirement in 2006. Tom cared deeply about animals and remembered pet names more easily than those of their owners. He maintained a free rehabilitation clinic for wild animals, including bears, hawks, owls, vultures, and other wildlife. An orphaned red-tailed hawk, named Herbie, made local news after it imprinted on humans and dive-bombed a paper delivery boy.
Tom was passionate about environmental causes. He was president of the American Littoral Society, a coastal environmental group, and he founded the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society (APAS) in 1984. He inspired others with his enthusiasm for birds, butterflies, geology, astronomy, and marine biology. An avid birdwatcher, Tom sought a hawk-watch site in western Pennsylvania to match the famed Hawk Mountain site in eastern Pennsylvania. He founded the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, along the Somerset-Bedford County border, which has become one of the best places in North America to monitor migrating hawks and eagles.
His other big project was to create a wetland refuge for breeding waterfowl. He and Sally bought 175 acres of degraded farmland along Dunnings Creek, Bedford County, and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department to establish a network of lakes, ponds, and wetland habitats. The Dunnings Creek wetlands was an enormous success and remains a hotspot for threatened bird species. It is now a conservation easement under permanent protection and is managed by Tom’s children and the APAS.
Tom was a committed runner, who ran 50-mile ultramarathons and jogged six miles each day for over 40 years. He loved to body surf with his grandchildren and was the last to leave the water. His grandchildren called him Tadpole, a nickname that his children also ended up using. He loved to tell stories about spelunking with Sally and his SCUBA trips to Florida.
Tom loved his daily walks with Sally and their dogs on their farm in Pennsylvania, and later in Chincoteague. His Chincoteague neighbors will miss seeing him walking his dogs through every kind of weather and his cheerfulness and sense of wonder.
Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Dwight and Nedra, and older sister, Jackie (Dennis) Rounsley.
Tom is survived by wife, Sally Dick; children, Christopher Dick (Mélida), Kim Moore (Bo), and Kelly Warshel (Brien); and grandchildren, McKenzie Warshel, Colby Warshel, Delainey Warshel, Cooper Warshel, Tucker Moore, Sally Moore, and Caitlin Dick-Ruiz.