Tom Hancock’s life enriched Casco and beyond

Tom Hancock (right) inside a greenhouse at his son's Geoff's farm.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — There was such an abundance of sunflowers placed upon the altar and the coffin that some of the stalks began to fall.

The flowers were set into kinetic motion, causing one of the youngest family members to turn around and replace a few of the sunflowers that had grown on the Hancock Family Farm and now adorned the church.

Thomas Milton Hancock’s celebration of life took place at the Casco Village Church United Church of Christ, where only weeks before he had presented one of many guest sermons.

“I never met a microphone I didn’t like,” Hancock had said in mid-June.

In a letter written by Rev. Joyce Long, but read by Rev. Marcia Charles, Long referred to Hancock as “a friend and a mentor” and she playfully praised his skills behind the pulpit.

“He was an awesome preacher,” Long wrote. “And I let him preach in my absence. And, the parishioners always let me know how they liked his preaching…more.”

VOICE OF CASCO DAYS will be missed with the sudden passing of Tom Hancock.

That sentiment was shared by many who spoke: How Hancock had used the gift of a powerful, booming voice to express and share his love for God.

“If any of you have never heard Tom preach, I feel sorry for you,” said Rev. Bryan Breault, who served with Hancock on the Outdoor Ministry Council at the Pilgrim Lodge summer camp.

“None was as powerful as Tom’s preaching,” he said.

Breault — who only weeks before had sat on a deck talking to Hancock — described evenings when Tom’s voice would echo across the lake at Pilgrim Lodge in Gardiner, as Hancock announced the activities that campers were being assigned to.

“There was a little lilt at the end of his laugh. You knew that he not only entertained himself but he was also happy to share his humor,” Breault said.

“You are now the intricate part of the echo. Your voice resonates still,” he said.

The news of Tom Hancock’s death on July 13 rocked the community of Casco — his hometown where he wore a wide variety of hats, including being the voice on the PA system at Casco Days. Because of Hancock’s impactful involvement with conflict resolution at the summer camp Seeds of Peace in Casco, that shockwave of sorrow stretched across the world.

Seeds of Peace Executive Director Leslie Lewin read e-mails from young men and women living in India and Pakistan who remember Hancock and his positive influence in their lives.

On Saturday morning, during the celebration of life ceremony for Thomas Milton Hancock, there were so many people who came to honor and remember him that the sanctuary was filled to capacity with an overflow room inside the church as well as pews set up under a large canopy on the lawn. During the visitation hours at the Hall Funeral Home on Friday evening, one lane was closed on Quaker’s Ridge to accommodate the number of vehicles parked on the road.

TOM LOVED WORKING WITH KIDS be it a summer camps or church or as a teacher or as a member of the SAD 61 School Board.

“We are here to comfort and support one another in our common loss,” Rev. Charles said at the beginning of the service.

The Maine Conference United Church of Christ’s Conference Minister, Rev. Deborah Blood, spoke momentarily.

“There was a shockwave of grief. Even on short acquaintance, Tom has impact,” Blood said. “We are diminished because he is gone.”

Rev. Long, who was not present, had written the homily for Hancock, which was entitled “Larger than Life.”

Hancock was a man who applied his talents to bettering his community around him, she said.

He wore many hats

He rolled up his sleeves for many institutions: the school board, the board of selectmen, the church at a local and state level, as a dean and counselor at Pilgrim Lodge, and as a Mercy Associate for the Sisters of Mercy, Rev. Long listed out.

“As esteemed as all these are, we cannot ignore that he was called, ‘pa’ or ‘grandpa,’ Long said.

It was no secret that his five granddaughters — Lily, Emilia, Adeline, Lucy and Sophia — were the apples of his eye. Everybody who knew Hancock heard him talk about the love he had for his family and the adoration he held for his wife Holly.

Hancock had worked for 16 years as a professor at St. Joseph’s College. Co-worker Kassy Clements described how he purchased a gift for Holly — not a ring but a jetpack leaf blower to keep their yard in Casco Village neat and tidy. Also, Hancock — who always bragged about his wife’s long hair — had nothing but compliments when Holly tried out a short haircut recently.

“I am humbled to be here because anyone of us in this room who worked with Tom would say the same things,” Clements began.

Hancock was an upbeat co-worker with a dry sense of humor and a supportive and even-keeled attitude and a fierce dedication to teaching well, she said.

“He was a bear of a man with the heart of a teddy bear,” she said.

“What he knew best, however, was how to teach and how to connect. His students loved him and respected him. He could tell someone to rewrite a paper in a way that they were grateful,” she said. “He was simply one of the best educators with whom I have ever worked.”

“Tom was devout. Catherine McCauley said, ‘Let us take one day only in our hands at a time. Resolve to do good today and better tomorrow.’ Sometimes, Tom would say, ‘I tried to do good today. I’ll do better tomorrow.’ ”

“My dear friend, I would say you did just fine. Go sing with the angels, Tom, and eat cake,” Clements said.

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