Mr. Thomas Hendrick Caulfield

Obituary for Mr. Thomas Hendrick Caulfield

July 7, 1927 - December 8, 2015
Berkeley, California | Age 88

Mariner, activist, and engineer


Thomas (Tom) Hendrick Caulfield
Deceased Dec 9th, 2015, aged 88 years, in Berkeley, CA, of natural causes after a long illness.
Born in July of 1927 in Borger, Texas to Thomas and Frances Caulfield, Tom was an only child of unconventional parents. His father was a liberal journalist, his mother a liberated career woman and teacher in Waco, Texas.
After attending Harvard, Tom married Ann Weaver. Their son Daniel was born in 1951. A committed activist for peace and workers rights, Tom, like many of his generation, worked at blue collar jobs and joined the labor movement. Tom led strikes in the meat packing plant where he worked to improve working conditions, and to pressure corporate management for more equitable pay and living wages.

Tom and Ann moved to the Bay Area in 1961, where he pursued his academic interests and took up sailing on the bay. Tom and Daniel built a small catamaran, and Tom eventually purchased a small wooden sailboat, the Chinook.
The marriage did not last, however, and Tom and Ann were divorced in 1964. He remarried, to Mina Davis in 1967, joining a single mother with a family of 5 children, mostly teenaged at the time. Tragically, Daniel Caulfield was killed in 1969 while living in Los Angeles, under strange and suspicious circumstances. The family, who had recently begun the process of integrating Daniel as a brother, was devastated by the loss.

Tom completed a masters in Psychology at San Francisco State University in 1966. His research took him deep into the brains and optic nerves of felines, specifically those of cats. While he found the work fascinating, he told his family the inhumanity of killing cats and other animals for research weighed on him too much to want to continue, and he turned away from an academic career to engineering, and the nascent field of electronics.

Working with his friend and partner John Bastin, Tom became a valuable asset to a small yet profitable business of installing and maintaining electronic controls on modern cargo ships. His love of sailing and the water let him to look for a larger boat to sail, one suitable for the ocean. He and Mina had a dream of a Caribbean voyage where Mina, who was pursuing a doctorate in anthropology, could complete her field work and dissertation. They were eventually able to realize this dream. In 1968 Tom and Mina successfully purchased the Saturna, a 50 foot sloop of Sharps design, built in Vancouver in 1913 of cedar and teak. After over a year of work in preparation, with a crew of 8, they sailed together from San Francisco to the Caribbean.

Many adventures followed. Miraculously, no lives were lost, nor bones broken, though in later years Tom admitted that had he known what he was getting into, he would have taken more care in preparation, had fewer and more experienced crew, and far more emergency equipment. Still, Tom and Mina would end up making the same trip, in the same boat, twice more over the next three decades. After Saturna sank peacefully at anchor in Panama, Tom and Mina purchased Kuani, a 41 foot Cascade, and sailed from San Francisco to Panama twice more, extending their cruising life well into their 70s.
With his wife Mina, Tom was politically active his entire life, contributing time and money to the causes of peace, environmentalism, and to ending oppression of all types. Tom, along with urban planner Bob Heifetz, was one of the original founders of the Bay Area Peace Navy. Since 1983 the Peace Navy has engaged in a rich variety of water-based guerrilla theatre dramatizing opposition to U.S. Naval intervention abroad and support for ecologically sound, socially just, and peaceful uses of the Bay at home. For many years Tom's lovely cutter Saturna was the flagship of the fleet, her size and grace boosting the morale of those promoting social justice through water-borne actions. His subsequent 41-foot ketch Kuani served the same role. Tom's sustained role in the Peace Navy was of inestimable value to the rich history of bay area grassroots political activism.
Saturna was also one of the many small craft participating in the native American re-occupation of Alcatraz island in1970, resulting in the successful settling of a treaty dispute with the Federal government by native American activist groups.
Perhaps most famously, Tom and Bob Heifetz sailed down the Rio San Juan in Nicaragua at the height of the US-sponsored Contra war, in 1985. Tom was captured, along with Bob and some 30 activists from Witness for Peace, a group of non-violent protestors committed to documenting the abuses perpetrated by the Contra forces. In a huge embarrassment to the US State Department, their release was negotiated and secured. Soon after, support for funding the Nicaraguan proxy war began to unravel, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal that disgraced US foreign policy in the region for decades.
Tom leaves his wife Mina, his stepchildren Susan Baltrushes, Becky Stocking, Rachel Stocking, Melissa Stocking and Thomas Stocking, as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grands. As friends and family say goodbye to Tom, we are reminded of our own roles and responsibilities for making the world a better place, and for maintaining solidarity with people's struggles everywhere.
Family friend and poet Glenn Meisenheimer contributed these lines:
Eventually we disembark
To Sail another sea
Our compass points beyond the stars
Towards eternity

Message from the Family

Thank you all for your support during this difficult time.
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