Thomas Donald Williams
Thomas Donald Williams
  • June 20, 1941 - January 26, 2017
  • Monterey, California

Share This Obituary

Arrangements made by

The Paul Mortuary

390 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Get Directions

Profile of The Paul Mortuary

View Phone Number

On Thursday, January 26, 2017, Thomas Donald Williams passed away peacefully in his Monterey home. Tom is survived by his loving wife Jane Williams; his younger sister Kay Terry who lives in Citrus Heights, California; his son Brian Williams (wife Amy) who lives in Nashville, Tennessee; his daughter Sasha Brown (husband Clint) who lives in Dallas, Texas; his stepson Jimmy Lieder who lives in Wonder Valley, California; and two stepdaughters, Jamie Lieder who lives in Shelter Cove, California and Kristi Lieder-Beck (husband Garrett) who lives in Fresno, California. Much to his delight, he lived to enjoy three grandchildren and five step grandchildren.
Tom was born in Oakland, California, to Everett and Lillian Williams. A theme throughout Tom's young life was his love of dogs and horses. He was attending University of California at Davis with a major in dentistry when a friend gave him life-changing career counseling when saying, "Pick your profession from your avocation and you will be happy for the rest of your life. Pick it for the money you will make and you will be bored in five years." Tom changed his major to veterinary medicine in his sophomore year. He wrote, "One must love animals, have a passion for treating them and giving them the gift of health. He must have an ability to work with his hands, and determination and drive softened by gentleness." When his studies were completed at UC Davis Tom received a call from Uncle Sam. He had been chosen to go into biological research with the United States Army at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.
Tom went into private practice when he opened Aguajito Veterinary Hospital in 1978 where he practiced veterinary medicine from then to the present day. His curiosity about animals, both domestic and wild, was deepened by a thirst for conducting research. He participated in research on elk in Yellowstone National Park and on wild horses in Nevada by tagging and collecting DNA samples. He was contracted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and became its first veterinarian, tending to marine animals before the doors opened in 1984. Tom developed a world-class sea otter rescue and research program and saved oil drenched otters following the tragic Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. While at the Aquarium he succeeded in keeping stranded otter pups alive, overseeing them in his bathtub at home. He developed a formula for orphaned pups which nourished them in the absence of their mothers' milk and used water beds to keep orphaned otter pups from becoming overheated, a key to success in their survival. Sea otters in almost every aquarium and zoo across North America are there today as a result of Tom's pioneering work at the Aquarium.
He also worked with the Tuna Research and the Conservation Center of Stanford University and with the Monterey Bay Aquarium where he was again a pioneer. He developed the surgical techniques for placing "archival" tags in tuna to record their trans-oceanic sojourns in stunning detail. Tom trained two generations of Stanford students in at-sea surgical techniques and traveled on expeditions that took him across the globe tagging giant blue fin tuna. Remarkably Tom conducted all of his research while still maintaining a steadfast commitment to his Aguajito Veterinary practice.
Tom was active in the Monterey community as well. As a longtime member of the Monterey Rotary Club, he championed programs to expand music education in Monterey Peninsula Schools and supported programs to eradicate polio worldwide.
The motto by which Tom lived was, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." He graced us all with a rare combination of humility, intuition, skill, generosity, humor and playfulness that left a legacy of gratitude and inspired lifelong friendships from far and wide. He was a bright, funny, warm considerate and caring man, a gentle spirit and a true healer. He will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will be held at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Carmel Valley at 11am on Saturday, February 18, 2017. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, 1698 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville, CA 95076 or to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940. To leave condolences for the family please visit

Arrangements under the direction of The Paul Mortuary, Pacific Grove, CA.