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The Passing of a Great Man

It is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of Tom Gilmore, former New Jersey Audubon President and CEO. Tom was a beloved and highly respected leader who, during his 30-year tenure, was instrumental in the passage of landmark conservation laws and the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of open space. A staunch advocate for bringing people closer to nature, Tom advanced environmental education through New Jersey Audubon nature centers, as well as in our schools and communities.

Fishing - Oct 2011 in PA (PARKE)
Fishing - Oct 2011 (PARKE)
Tom and I Fishing - Oct 2011

A native of Philadelphia, Tom came to NJ Audubon in 1983 from his position as General Manager at the Philadelphia Zoo. When Tom retired from New Jersey Audubon in 2012, the organization had grown from a birding club to a highly effective conservation organization. In addition to his conservation work, Tom’s great passions were his family and fly-fishing, a serious hobby about which he authored several books.

I fondly recall an expression Tom used to share with a warm smile that seems quite fitting for all that he has done to preserve New Jersey’s natural heritage: Do the difficult first, Tom would warn, because the impossible takes longer.

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I hope you will join me in remembering and honoring the passing of a great man. Personally, I will be forever grateful for Tom as a conservation champion, lover of nature, mentor, teacher and friend.

Eric Stiles, President and CEO, NJ Audubon

Visionary Leadership, The Conservation Legacy of Thomas J. Gilmore

A Celebration of Life

Tom Gilmore was hired as the president of New Jersey Audubon in summer 1983. I started in September that same year at age 25. I grew up with NJA and with Tom at the helm of the organization. As Eric has often reminded us, the founders of the Audubon movement were visionary women, but Tom was truly the founder of the modern-day NJA with which we have all become familiar. Within months of being named CEO, he began slowly and methodically reforming the organization from an unconsolidated group of nature centers and our research arm (CMBO) into cohesive organization with a relatable mission. While there have been many tweaks along the way NJA’s structure has gone relatively unchanged since the mid-1980s and his vision has never been more evident than in what I have seen happen among our staff during COVID – a true embrace of mission integration and working as a whole. Tom’s leadership style was one that exuded compassion and humility. He valued teamwork and collaboration. He could facilitate discussion so that most everyone would come out the other side with investment. And he did all of this with a great sense of humor, a steadfast commitment to the organization and love for the most precious people in his life – his family. I had not seen Tom in a while, but he is an integral part of who I am today. I feel profound gratitude alongside profound loss. – Dale Rosselet

Here’s to Tom; a leader, a friend, and the salt of the earth. A quiet, self effacing & wonderful man! – Mark Levy

Ann and I were indeed saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Tom. We loved Tom. He represented what we hold dear. Hopefully, we can somehow express the loss we all feel in some tangible way. Tom was Audubon and we will always think of of him in that capacity. Loving. – Ann and Alan Bernstein 

Tom was an inspiring leader who shared his passion for NJA and it’s mission with many. He always challenged the organization to do more in the name of conservation. I am grateful I had the chance to get to know him and I will treasure that experience – Carole Hughes

Tom was a terrific man who could inspire and work with everyone, even Dick Turner, and never lost his sense of humor. His mark will always be on NJAS – Alan Willemsen

I am deeply saddened to learn of Tom’s passing but grateful for his impactful leadership, commitment, friendship and willingness to share his love of flyfishing. His conservation legacy through NJA will continue to benefit generations to come – Randy Jones

Truly a sad day. Tom was one of a kind, and a true leader in every way. Through his dedication and vision, NJA became the multifaceted organization we know today. I will forever be grateful for his commitment and life’s work, and generations to come will have opportunities to connect with nature because of it.  Even though brief, I am grateful I was able to see him in his element – Ashley Rey

Tom was indeed a great man, a courageous and determined leader whose many accomplishments included passage of New Jersey’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, the most comprehensive law in the nation that has protected thousands of aces of habitat from development.

Tom’s fierce commitment to the mission of NJ Audubon coupled with a tempered demeanor that engendered the respect of both friend and foe brought NJA into its second century with a vision that every New Jersey resident was entitled to an accessible experience with the natural world.

At one of the 9/11 memorials held at the Montclair Hawkwatch it was raining hard, and not having heard the scheduled donor trip was cancelled, we waited a while before deciding to leave. Suddenly we heard the clanking of steps on the metal ladder, and there was Tom – soaking wet yet committed to climbing the mountain just in case anyone showed up – Wayne Greenstone

This is a very tough blow, as Tom was a dear friend to Nancy and myself. He helped in many ways to pull us into the NJA sphere from his early days at NJA, and Tom was always a core leader in keeping NJA effective and influential. He leaves behind a lasting legacy across our state – David and Nancy Hall

New Jersey Audubon