Tom Jay Walks On.


This came to me from Katherine Baril last week. It was written by a friend of Tom’s.


Tom Jay passed away in Jefferson hospital at 5:50 tonight in hospice care. High praises for the hospital, the staff, the care and the spirited compassion. Friends, who are tantamount to family were present.

Tom Jay was as close as our community could get to having our own “Watershed Shaman”  for the last 30 years.

Some knew Tom  from his nationally recognized art work, others from his poetry, more from the inspiration he gave us  with his words and the gift of reminding us we are all Salmon People. As our community grows and changes, and our ecosystems are destroyed and restored,  Tom was the holder of our flame, the hot, burning center reminding us that life was magic but short, that the job before us was big and heavy  and that the  metal of our spines needed constant strengthening and civic courage  before we would get too cold and brittle.

Some of us know Tom as the voice of Puget Sound clean up and restoration in the l980s.  It was Tom, in his  humble way that would speak to us quietly at first, paint images, and then cheer us on to invite us to  the magic and wonder of salmon.

We were each reminded of our own experience with  Tom. Some of us knew him in wet suits swimming upstream with salmon. Some worked with Tom to restore a  raise eggs in a small hatchery in  Discovery Bay under a unique agreement with State Fisheries to increase the run in one stream and then move eggs to Chimacum after a landslide that had destroyed that stream’s native runs. Tom would share  almost in a whisper. “you know that the eyes of salmon smolts would lock eyes with us and if you listen you hear them say,” give us a chance and we’ll come home,  our ancestors and elders will come home, lay eggs, and restore your streams”. Today, volunteers and students work with North Olympic Salmon to count those reds. Tom and the salmon taught us restoration is possible.

Tom also taught us, that we are all salmon people, bound together by the silver thread of returning salmon. Tom and Sara started the award winning Wild Olympic Salmon-  school children plant trees each fall, volunteers raise eggs and count redds. In November, each year, Tom and hte Wild Olympic Salmon volunteers would provided a  the clarion call with lights in dark tents to come home-  to celebrate, educate and restore. His gentle bringing together  of heavy  burnt metal and fire with little tiny fragile salmon eggs taught us that the crux of our challenge- the  privilege of being salmon people was to live in place long enough to understand our ecosystems and care enough to make a difference as if our life depended on it- Tom’s salmon are here as our teachers

Some of us will remember Tom always focusing on the salmon, telling us that as loggers, fisherman, environmentalists, young families  could work together, Many of the wonderful young leaders who are coming home after graduating from local high schools, planting trees when they were young, being raises on the annual Festival where salmon wore tails, candles lit trails to magic and music, and fall chum came home.

We, and our rivers and streams,  are all better because of Tom and Sara,  Tom’s voice is in the habitat trees that generations of students planted each winter. His voice is in the tree planting poetry of a generation of hippies that followed logging with new trees.   HIs spirit is in  the soil, the mychorizal network, the landscape, the knowledge that we share an extraordinary place and each of us as salmon people have the opportunity and the challenge to restore and preserve it. That community is about restoring ourselves as salmon people- diverse, generous, and needing a place to call home.

Tom will be  remembered in  his art, his poetry, his vision, his leadership, his belief in us. Tom called upon us to build and restore a community.  We who were lucky enough to know Tom had  a true friend.

Tonight I will go through the books, the poetry, the photos, the t-shirts from Tom and Wild Olympic Salmon.  I will remember Tom talking about the silver thread that salmon use to come home to us all. November will be the month chum return and Tom “walked into the forest”We can take long quiet fall walks and hear the returning chum.  We can reach out to gently touch Tom’s sacred bells in our watersheds.  I will remember Tom’s hands, his poetry, his quiet wisdom, his knowledge of the roots of words, his immense physical and moral  strength. Who else could pull together the vision, imagination, genius and funding to build a thirty foot bronze sculpture of a Native woman greeting Raven returning home to her in his canoe with a circle of  strong and fragile salmon swimming around them

I hate loosing you, my dearest friend, it came too soon- Its like you gave us everything you had, like the salmon, so we could swim again.

Thank you for teaching us so much, we will continue to walk the path.

A “WAKE / CELEBRATION” will take place at Finnriver in Chimacum in the afternoon on TUESDAY NOVEMBER 12

2 PM viewing of Tom in a special open casket
4 PM Wake and Celebration
PIE POTLUCK (sweet or savory)

Poems, sayings, expressions, stories, music welcome.

Bring tokens of love and blossoms to leave with Tom.

Poems, sayings, expressions, stories, music welcome.

Bring tokens of love and blossoms to leave with Tom.

3 Responses

  1. I remember Puget Sound in 1957 when I was a teen aboard a family friend’s yacht exploring the Sound and fishing for Salmon. It was magical. I deeply appreciate the efforts of Tom Jay to preserve that home for Salmon. I did not know him. I live on the East Coast. But, I am sure my cousin who lives in Port Townsend does. My daughter and I visited there recently. What a special place it is! My condolences for all of Tom’s friends.

  2. Wild Olympic Salmon Festival calling the salmon back to Chimacum Creek. A path curved like a salmon stream lines by luminaries. Costumes. Salmon hats. Dance. Music. Skits. Children traveling in a magic world.
    Salmon Weirs. Planting trees. Fencing. Adding curves and woody debris. Watering trees, The Dragon Rap, The Hydrologic Cycle. The Dragon Track Game, Treasure hunts with artful and poetic clues, another delight for our children’s education.
    Soul Salmon that speaks volumes to your souls. And makes our hearts jump whenever we see one.
    And then FiN, the mystic traveling Salmon…. what can I say…
    This is Culture. We are now Salmon People. From fingerlings at the WOS Festival to mature spawners who drives FIN all over our watershed.
    Thank you, Tom you will be sorely missed
    Thank you, Sara may there be solace in in this Salmon Run

  3. So much love and respect for this man. I have lost one of my elders and am also keenly aware that he is still here swirling around us, carried on by us. From his poem Plainsong “You would be kind; dance well.” Tom Jay

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