Tom Deupree’s View of Life

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Tom Deupree

Tom Deupree

I was busy in the backroom of Suffield’s Second Chance Shop, going through donations made to the shop, when I answered a knock on the backdoor. A tall man identified himself as Tom Deupree and said he had items for donation. I discovered later, that Tom had lost his wife, Nikki, to cancer on December 26, 2015. Nikki had long been a beloved volunteer at this shop. He said she would be happy to know that clothing and collectibles from their Suffield home of 38 years would be coming here.

I called Tom to thank him for his donations and asked if I could interview him. We had two long chats while sitting on his porch.

Q.What brought you and Nikki to Suffield?

A. Nikki and I are from Cincinnati; we were both born into Cincinnati society. We wanted to move to the East Coast, due to our interest in antiques, and looked at the town of Litchfield. We found Litchfield to be “frozen in l840” and preferred the variety of homes in Suffield and its more accessible location. We also felt that Suffield was a safe and friendly place without social pressure.

Q. What are some of your major life events that occurred while here in Suffield?

A. We started an antique business which we both worked at and enjoyed for many years. Our children were born while here in Suffield and we found this to be a happy place for them. I have been involved with a camp in International Falls, MN, Kooch-i-ching. The camp has helped children develop independence, group cooperation, and life skills since its inception in the 1920’s. I continued to support it by working at the camp as an adult volunteer. Now I am writing a book about ways in which improvements in technology and equipment have made wilderness experiences more varied and challenging while increasing their safety. The camp values its relationship with local Indian reserves (what Americans call “reservations”) and thus I developed a deep respect for native cultures.

I also started a landscaping business, working for the City of Springfield Parks Department. I formed a crew of Spanish family members who were good and loyal workers.

In 2004 Nikki and I were in Hawaii and I contracted a streptococcal infection which very nearly killed me. I took a drug which brought me out of the coma but caused poor circulation in my extremities. I lost a leg, all the toes on the other leg, various parts of my fingers, and some skin around my nose. I am very fortunate to be alive and thankful for the technology which has helped me to deal with these issues. Two books which helped me manage were When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner and When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances by Carol Kent.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I will be living in Florida and working on the book I mentioned previously and also have plans to write a book on the antique business. Two influences on my thinking about life are Cadillac Jack, a movie, and Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. These stories and my own experiences have demonstrated that the real world is not the one we see on the daily news. The real world is out there; full of regular people; friendly, interesting, and creative.

During these interviews, most notable to me were Tom’s attributes of humility, intelligence, and an indomitable spirit. To be with him for these interviews was a privilege. Suffield has been fortunate to have had the Deuprees amongst us.

Here is an Ojibway prayer which Tom said represents his view of life:

The circle of the Earth is the head of a great drum;
With the day, it moves upward – booming;
With the night, it moves downward –booming;
The day and the night are its song.
I am very small, as I dance upon the drum-head;
I am like a particle of dust, as I dance upon the drum-head;
Above me in the sky is the shining ball of the drumstick.
I dance upward with the day; 
I dance downward with the night;
Someday I shall dance afar into space like a particle of dust.
Who is the Drummer who beats upon the earth-drum?
Who is the Drummer who makes me want to dance his song?
– Anonymous

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