Mr. Thomas “Tom” “Tadpole” Maben Dick died at 7:03 a.m. on July 30, 2022, after a brief battle with COVID-19. He was 80 years old.
Tom was born on August 10, 1941 in Ferndale Borough, Cambria County, near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was the only son of Dwight and Nedra Dick.
Tom had a free childhood. He jumped trains and hitchhiked before he could drive. He loved the outdoors.
Tom made headlines when, at the age of 11, he fell off the 60-foot Ferndale cliff near Stony Creek. He survived landing in the mud but had to wear a 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 fueled many made-up stories, usually involving pirates and crocodiles, which he told to entertain his children.
A young prankster, Tom was expelled from Westmont High School for staining chemistry lab reagents with gumdrops and for 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 earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Tom and his wife, Sally (doctor), got their first job in North Conway, NH, but moved back to Johnstown in 1967. At age 26, Tom built Richland Veterinary Hospital, where he worked until on his retirement in 2006. Tom cared deeply about animals and remembered pets’ names more easily than those of their owners. He maintained a free rehabilitation clinic for wildlife, including bears, hawks, owls, vultures, and other wildlife. An orphan red-tailed hawk, named Herbie, made local headlines after imprinting itself on humans and dive-bombing a paper delivery man.
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 searched for a hawk-watching site in western Pennsylvania to match the famous 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 watch migrating hawks and eagles.
His other big project was to create a wetland refuge for breeding waterfowl. He and Sally purchased 175 acres of degraded farmland along Dunnings Creek in Bedford County and worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Department to establish a network of lakes, ponds and wetland habitats. Dunnings Creek Wetlands has been a huge success and remains a hotspot for endangered bird species. It is now a conservation easement under permanent protection and is managed by Tom’s children and APAS.
Tom was a committed runner, running 50 mile ultramarathons and jogging 6 miles every day for over 40 years. He loved body surfing with his grandchildren and was the last to come out of the water. His grandchildren called him Tadpole, a nickname his children also came to use. He enjoyed telling stories about caving with Sally and her SCUBA trips to Florida.
Tom enjoyed 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 in all weathers and his cheerfulness and sense of wonder.
Tom is predeceased by his parents, Dwight and Nedra, and his older sister, Jackie (Dennis) Rounsley.
Tom is survived by his 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.