The Remarkable Tom Root Celebration of Life

Aug 29, 2022 | 0 comments

Tom Root was a remarkable man. As a Certified Funeral Celebrant, I recently had the honor of creating a Celebration of Life service for Tom Root’s family and friends. The family has given permission to share this celebration with you. You can read the service script after the video.

Tom Root Celebration of Life


Tom Root was a Renaissance man, a man of energy, intellect, and joy, with a zest for life that influenced everyone who knew him. Today we gather to celebrate Tom, his many interests and achievements. Welcome, I’m Gail Rubin, a Certified Funeral Celebrant, grateful to be with you this morning for this special gathering. To avoid distractions during this celebration of Tom’s life, please silence your cell phone or electronic devices for the duration of this service.

Tom’s many talents included gourmet cooking, sewing, and being an all-around Mr. Fix-It. And he loved, loved, loved music, both singing and playing instruments. He played the trombone and the euphonium, a tenor-bass brass instrument. Tom had the remarkable ability to whistle Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and at midnight on New Year’s Eve, he would play Auld Lang Syne on trombone out on the street.

He was in three bands, including a polka band, the Ambush Brass Band, and the New Mexico Territorial Brass Band, here with us today. This band plays period music from the Civil War to 1912, the year New Mexico became a state. Many of their instruments are antiques from that era. Members of the band here today include several who had retired and have returned for this service in salute to Tom.

They will play several pieces over the course of this service. Feel free to sing along. You will find the words in your program. We start with a song that recognizes the loss that brings us together today.


The Vacant Chair – New Mexico Territorial Brass Band

We shall meet but we shall miss him. There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.
When one year ago we gathered, Joy was in his mild blue eye.
Now the golden cord is severed, And our hopes in ruin lie.
CHORUS: We shall meet, but we shall miss him. 
There will be one vacant chair. 
We shall linger to caress him 
While we breathe our ev’ning prayer. 
At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell. How he strove to bear the banner
Thro’ the thickest of the fight
And uphold our country’s honor
In the strength of manhood’s might.
True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o’er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, O early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.

Thomas Lindsey Root drew his last breath on July 8, 2022, at home on hospice care while his family sang “I’ll Fly Away.” While he died at age 72, the vital, intelligent, witty and loving man that he was throughout his life had long before faded away due to Alzheimer’s disease.

As someone who washed and reused Ziploc bags, and told his son Evan he’d write him out of the will if he didn’t recycle glass, Tom had an eco-friendly green burial. After he expired, his body stayed at home overnight, with family and close friends coming to say goodbye. The next day, his body was wrapped in a shroud and taken to the La Puerta Natural Burial Ground, a Green Burial Council certified cemetery near Belen, for a natural burial.

We are here today in person and online to support Tom’s family: his wife, Diane Plummer; daughter Meredith Root-Bowman and her husband Christian; son Evan Root and his wife Sarah; four grandchildren and four siblings. And we welcome the many friends he made throughout his remarkable life.


And what a full life Tom led! He was born in Madison, Wisconsin to Marguerite and Forrest Root on April 16, 1950. He grew up there and in Richland Center, Wisconsin; Atlanta, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky. His interest in music developed early: he played baritone horn in the school band and sang in choruses. He also studied Spanish and enjoyed long bicycle rides through the Kentucky countryside.

Bicycling was Tom’s life-long passion. In the mid-1970s, he undertook an epic seven thousand five-hundred-mile trek by bike through South America, ending at the southern-most tip at Tierra del Fuego. In 1976, he undertook a transcontinental trip of the United States from Virginia to Oregon, the Bikecentennial. He also toured the British Isles and the Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico. Tom rode his bicycle daily to work at UNM from his home near Nob Hill until he retired. He owned a T-shirt that depicted a person riding a bike past gas pumps with the headline, “Passing Gas.”

Jim Rineholt, who now lives in Hailey, Idaho, was 20 years old in 1976 when he rode the Bikecentennial route with Tom. Even though he lost touch with most of the group members after the ride finished in Reedsport, Oregon, he has fond memories. He wrote: Tom got us through the 81 days of riding to complete the route. I’m sure bringing together a group of total strangers and keeping them organized was not an easy task. As I look back, I realize that sometimes when facing challenges, my experience with Bikecentennial gave me confidence to push through and finish. Tom’s encouragement along the route was a good life lesson for a young man.

Over the course of his varied career, Tom worked in sales, restaurants and his ultimate calling, education. Early on, he taught 5th grade at an elementary school in Westerville, Ohio. Even though male teachers there were not allowed to have beards, he got to play Santa at Christmas one year. He kept his beard, and no one complained. The beard was a lifelong feature of Tom’s appearance.

Tom met his future wife Diane Plummer in Santa Cruz, California, through mutual friends. She was getting her master’s degree in Social Work at San Jose State University, and he was teaching school in Watsonville. He didn’t make that great a first impression. She recalled him as a preppie, some guy with a bicycle and a beard. Time went by, and their paths crossed again, and his true, sweet nature became apparent. They were together for four years before they both lost their jobs in California, thanks to the loss of state tax revenue due to Proposition 13. They moved to Taos and married there.

He used his fluency in Spanish well, during his bike tour of South America and in bilingual and bicultural education. He eventually worked in higher education administration, college admissions, and earned a PhD from the University of New Mexico in 1999. He retired from UNM as the Outcomes Assessment Manager in 2014.

Dr. Ned Omalia who worked with Tom at UNM shared this reflection: Tom was a role model. In an organization where it appeared many people were just putting in their time before retiring, Tom was always involved in several projects at once. And he wore a pressed shirt every day. He was one of a kind.

Tom was truly a Renaissance man, talented in so many ways. Perhaps what powered his many interests was the coffee he drank all day, every day. And it had to be good coffee, he was a connoisseur, getting beans to grind from Whiting’s Coffee and Michael Thomas.

A gourmet in the kitchen, he worked as a baker and chef at the Snow Mansion Adventure Lodge and Hostel in Taos. Diane noted that while he outshone her in the kitchen, he usually cooked for the family twice a week. She did the dinners the other five days of the week. He never shied away from preparing a challenging dish, and he passed his love of cooking on to his children.

He loved hiking and camping, embracing a love of nature and the philosophy to leave your campsite better than you found it. And of course, singing around the campfire was part of any camping trip. He was meticulous in maintaining and fixing bicycles – he had all the tools. He was very much a DIY kind of guy. He sewed! He built a bunk bed for the kids! He loved playing intensely energetic racquetball and frisbee.

And he was a great dad. Even while he was busy earning his PhD and working, he was involved with Meredith and Evan and the YMCA’s Camp Shaver. There used to be a program called Indian Guides and Princesses, a bonding activity for fathers and their kids. Tom thought the program name was racist, and he got them to change the name to Friends Forever. Quality time including going out for ice cream.

Evan remembers Tom gave good hugs. Tom would ask, “When was the last time I said I love you?” If Evan said, “I don’t know,” Tom would say, “Good thing I asked.” Evan and Meredith would be Tom’s sous chefs as he made his home-cooked gourmet meals. The Albuquerque Journal even ran a story about Tom and Evan’s cooking together. Evan has fond memories of Friends Forever activities: bike rides, horseback riding, shooting BB guns and bow and arrows, and hiking many different trails. They went on many family camping trips with friends Michael and Ellie, Tim, Sandy, Allegra and Hannah.

I have one other memory from Evan to share with you later in the program. Now we will hear from Tom’s daughter, Meredith Root-Bowman.

Meredith’s Comments

My dad and I adored each other.

I don’t remember this, but my dad would tell me about one of his first memories of us together when he was rocking me back to sleep as a baby. He’d tear up as he told the story of holding me for hours and rocking me – and listening to the song ‘I wonder who’s kissing her now’ by Perry Como. He loved this story – it was a really poignant moment for him. And I always felt like that treasured first baby.

Every time I open my Joy of Cooking cookbook I think of him and the copy he gave me when I went to College. I use it make baked custard, pie crust, Irish soda break, and any and everything I remember being ‘comfort’ foods from my childhood. I miss being able to call up my dad and ask him a cooking question.

Those were some of my favorite memories – cooking different dishes in the kitchen with my dad. Him teaching me how to cut vegetables without cutting myself, or truss and stuff a turkey. So many of the cooking skills I take for granted, I learned from dad. If we were cooking a French recipe, he would talk in a silly French accent the whole time. We’d cook, be goofy, make a mess and clean as we went, I’d learn a bunch of new skills, and at the end enjoy something delicious.

Almost every weekend he’d make a special breakfast. A favorite was French Toast- with the really good sourdough- and served with butter and powdered sugar- which make sort of a frosting – instead of syrup.

Or he’d make a stack of toast with different jams, a pot of coffee, and we’d eat toast while we watched our cartoons. Then after cartoons it was his turn to watch This Old House, the Woodwright Shop, and golf. He said it was relaxing, like watching paint dry.

For my 16th birthday I invited a group of my close friends over and he made filet mignon, twice baked potatoes, asparagus and pie. Then he and my mom dressed up like a butler and a maid and served us. That’s something else I remember about my parents- they were such a team – always seeming like the perfect pair for each other and game to dress up and do something really fun and special.

My parents were very committed to making my and my brothers’ birthdays really special since they were in December, and they didn’t want us our special days to be overlooked in favor of Christmas. We were Queen or King for the day and my dad would cook whatever we wanted to eat for the day and my mom would let us dictate all the activities.

When I was in elementary school for my birthdays – My dad would take the whole day to design these intricate treasure hunts, with handwritten clues hidden all over the neighborhood. The clues required math, geography, riddle solving, use of tools like compasses/maps, etc. and would lead to an actual buried treasure full of toy jewels, candy, and chocolate gold coins.

He always knew the best party games. And he and my mom were fun and silly and spent so much time teaching us how to have fun. My dad was so fun. And devoted to making and having fun.

We had so much fun doing our special YMCA dad/daughter program – Friends Forever. This was a girl/boy scouts equivalent that he did with me and my brother separately. He and I would get together with other girls and dads and play mini golf, do crafts, go roller skating, bowling, cook together, build things (like paper hot air balloons that really flew), and go to camp every year. At camp he taught me to shoot a bow and arrow and a bb gun, we hiked, sang camp songs, ate junk food, played games, and just hung out. Looking back, I feel so incredibly lucky to have had that much dedicated fun time with just him and I. I know my brother also valued that one-on-one time with him.

I remember him taking me on a father/kid back packing trip near Durango when I was 8. It was my first backpacking trip, and I was the youngest kid there. I carried a pack and we out-hiked the other dads and the older boys who gave up on the steep climbs and long distances. He kept enticing me up hill after hill with lemon drops and by singing songs and telling stories. He was so patient and encouraging. Looking back on it now as a parent – trying to convince a reluctant 8-year-old up a giant mountain sounds awful – but he seemed to genuinely enjoy it and so I did too. It’s definitely one of my favorite memories of a special trip we took together. He was so proud of me and that really meant a lot to me – to make my dad proud.

He was sort of a jack of all trades and very crafty. He made me a wooden platform bed with custom bookshelves.  My dad taught me to use a sewing machine. We decided to make our own bean bags to go with the wooden corn hole set he made. He, my brother, and I liked building model rockets and shooting them off.

I felt like and I still feel like he knew everything about everything. A walking human encyclopedia who was genuinely curious and interested in knowing what there was to know. Always ready to do an experiment or ponder some phenomenon. He was so willing to share his knowledge and skills with me. He was incredibly patient. A teacher at heart.

Don’t get me wrong, growing up my dad and I would fight with each other. I was stubborn and he was determined. Even when we disagreed, battled and fought it felt like we were fighting on the same playing field, engaging with an equal and worthy opponent. I think he was actually really proud that he had taught me how to stand up for myself, persevere, and win.

When we were kids – he wouldn’t let me win just because I was a kid. He’d beat me then teach me how to employ a better strategy until I could beat him fair and square.

He was very strong, very optimistic, confident, and happy – and he was also very sensitive and emotionally in touch with himself and others. He encouraged us to feel our feelings and I always knew I could go to him with any feeling, any problem, and he would be there to help and support me. I could and did cry on his shoulder many, many times.

My dad was my confidant, and the one person’s whose opinion and advice really mattered to me to seek out.

I feel like he was there coaching me through every major life decision I’ve ever made. Giving me good advice on where to go to college. Helping me find the best new friends there (they played frisbee). And instantly approving of and befriending the man I’d marry.

We’d go get ice cream together – sometimes after one of these dad/daughter activities- and sometimes just to spend some quality time together and just talk and talk. And he had this way of making me, a child, feel like an interesting and important person. I felt so affirmed, unconditionally loved, and special to him. And he was so special to me. He was my friend, my hero, my teacher, and above all -everything a dad could and should ever be to his daughter. We just got each other. And we really, really liked each other. Getting ice cream, especially sharing a banana split, was our thing. We continued those talks as an adult, sometimes over cobbler, a croissant, a burger, or pizza – or a banana split.

It was during one of those talks that he confessed to me how scared he was to be losing his wits, driving home and not remembering where he was going. We always talked about real things, scary things, and how we felt about them. He knew how important being real and being vulnerable was. How it made us uniquely human, fragile, and alive.

Dad, if you were here you’d say to me – “Bunny, we’ve all got to do it. It’s part of life. It doesn’t make it any easier and that’s okay. Go ahead and cry. Thank goodness I went first, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to happen”

Thank you for teaching me how to be more like you- how to be strong, to be compassionate, to be humble, and to take nothing for granted.

Tenting Tonight – New Mexico Territorial Brass Band

As we remember Tom today, the New Mexico Territorial Brass Band offers the popular Civil War song, Tenting Tonight, also referred to as Tenting on the Old Campground. It was written in 1863 by a New Hampshire musician, Walter Kittredge.

We’re tenting tonight on the old campground,
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear.

Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old campground.

We’ve been tenting tonight on the old campground,
Thinking of days gone by,
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand,
And the tear that said, “Goodbye!”

We’ve been fighting today on the old campground,
Many are lying near;
Some are dead and some are dying
Many are in tears.

Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Dying tonight, dying tonight,
Dying on the old campground.


Son-in-law Christian Bowman recites Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Tom was dedicated to leaving the world a better place, everywhere he went. He cared about people, justice, and being a good neighbor. He believed in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He was an environmental steward, picking up trash everywhere he went.  He was civic-minded and donated to New Mexico Public Interest Research Group. This organization works to advocate for public health, democracy, removing toxic chemicals and waste from the environment, supporting education, educating consumers, and much more.

He was loyal and loving. He brought music to the residents of nursing homes and assisted living places. He was very intentional in being the change you want to see in the world. Help, don’t judge. We can honor Tom’s memory by honoring these values he held dear.

Battle Cry of Freedom– New Mexico Territorial Brass Band

The Battle Cry of Freedom by composer-lyricist George F. Root (a relative perhaps?) was composed in haste in a single day in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s July 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers to fill the shrinking ranks of the Union Army. The song was first performed on July 24 and again on July 26 at a massive war rally. Public response to “The Battle Cry of Freedom” was overwhelming. When the sheet music was published that fall, fourteen printing presses working round the clock were unable to keep up with the demand for copies. Between 500,000 and 700,000 copies were produced.

Yes, we’ll rally round the flag, boys,
We’ll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom,
We will rally from the hillside,
We’ll gather from the plain,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

The Union forever,
Hurrah! boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitors,
Up with the stars;
While we rally round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

We are springing to the call
Of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And we’ll fill our vacant ranks with
A million free men more,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


We will welcome to our numbers
The loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And although they may be poor,
Not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


So we’re springing to the call
From the East and from the West,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And we’ll hurl the rebel crew
From the land that we love best,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.



Alzheimer’s Disease robbed Tom of his quick wit, his memory, his emotions, and eventually, his life. It was a long, slow, sad journey for Tom and his family. But we can remember Tom as the vital, loving, active man that he was. Let us remember Tom Root as he was before the shadow of Alzheimer’s fell upon him. Please join me saying the refrain, “We remember Tom.”

Reading: We Remember Tom

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We remember Tom

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember Tom

In the opening of the buds and in the warmth of summer,

We remember Tom

In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,

We remember Tom

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember Tom

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We remember Tom

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember Tom

When we have joys we yearn to share,

We remember Tom

So long as we live, he too shall live, for he is a part of us as

We remember Tom.

(Based on the reading We Remember Them from the Gates of Prayer Reform Judaism Prayer Book)

Evan shared a memory from when he was about 8 or 9 years old. He hadn’t been able to sing and hear himself well enough to know if he was singing in tune. While driving to Camp Shaver in the Jemez Mountains, Tom got Evan to sing loudly, which let him know he WAS singing in tune. They were loudly and happily singing camp songs as they drove into San Ysidro. If you’ve driven out that way, you know that the speed limit suddenly drops from 65 to 35 miles per hour when you get to the village border. Tom completely failed to notice the speed limit change and got pulled over by the one cop who patrols San Ysidro, resulting in a ridiculously expensive speeding ticket.

So, if you don’t normally sing because you’re not in tune, don’t worry about it. Some people need to sing loudly to hear if they’re in tune. Tom understood that and encouraged it. These were some of his favorite songs to sing around the campfire. Please join in and sing along, with gusto.

Red River Valley (Spotify – Suzy Bogguss, 3:54)

I’ll Fly Away (Spotify – Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, 3:57)

Auld Lange Syne – New Mexico Territorial Brass Band (approx. 2:30)

Everyone is invited back to the house to continue the celebration of Tom’s life. You’ll have the opportunity to write down three words that come to mind when you think of Tom, and your remembrances that the family can continue to cherish long after today. Video of this celebration will be available on YouTube. It will include a photo montage you’ll be able to see at the house. The video will be titled, Tom Root Celebration of Life.

Go forth and carry Tom Root’s goodness with you and share the love he carried in this world. And don’t be afraid to sing loudly. Tom would approve. Please wait for the family to exit the chapel first, so they may greet you outside the door as you exit. Thank you for coming today.


A Good Goodbye