Thomas (Tom) Patrick O’Sullivan passed away peacefully on October 23rd, 2020 in Nanaimo, BC. He was born on December 22, 1934 in the town of Lydd in Kent, England to Thomas and Mary O’Sullivan. He married his long-time love Margaret Pamela Kelly on April 2nd, 1959. They have remained happily married for over 61 years. Tom was the youngest of 4 children with older siblings Vera, Michael, and Maureen. The family soon moved to Heatherley Drive in Nottingham where Tommy, as he was affectionally referred to by his older siblings, and to the great delight of his grandchildren, attended High Pavement Grammar School and grew up during the war years. During his youth he enjoyed football, rugby, boxing, and playing on the railway embankment with older brother Michael and other neighbourhood friends. After completing Grammar school, he started a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with John Players and Company earning a National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering in 1955 from Nottingham and District Technical College. After this he joined the merchant navy for several years. This required absences from Margaret of up to 5 months while serving as a junior and second engineer on freighters travelling from the UK to various ports around the world. These trips provided a wealth of stories that Tom was more than happy to tell to the delight of friends and family throughout the years. With the arrival of their first child Catherine (Dan) in 1960 Tom decided it was time to stay closer to home and worked at Rolls Royce and Northern Dairies in Derby for several years. Shortly after the birth of son David (Lisa) in 1962 he decided to return to the merchant navy and with additional time spent at Hull marine college he was awarded his First Class Marine Engineer ticket in 1966. After this, he again returned to shore in order to be with Margaret and the children and worked as an Engineer Surveyor on the construction of a nuclear power station.
In 1969, in search of a better life for themselves and their children, Tom and Margaret emigrated to Canada, landing in Nanaimo where Tom had secured a position as Second Engineer with BC Ferries. He remained with the ferries for the next 26 years, retiring in 1995 as a Chief Engineer based in Departure Bay. During his years with the ferries he worked on most of the major vessels sailing between Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver and also did several years on the Queen of the North sailing between Kelsey Bay and Prince Rupert. During his time on the ferries he developed a reputation as a no-nonsense engineer who did the job right and expected others to do the same. He developed many long-lasting friendships through these years and took delight in getting together for social events with the Engineers on a regular basis during retirement.
When the city kids, Tom and Margaret, moved from their urban environment of England to the wilds of Canada they decided to jump in with both feet and bought an old fixer upper house on 4 acres near the Nanaimo airport where they have lived for over 50 years. This began a life long hobby of gardening, farming, and home renovations. Over the years Tom honed his skills as a jack of all trades, renovating the old house room by room, inside and outside, until it was a comfortable and modern place to live and raise a family. He also learned many farming skills raising many kinds of animals over the years including cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, and bees. Their garden became the envy of neighbours and friends as they planted an extremely large vegetable garden with many varieties of plants. Over the years he also developed intricate systems of vegetable garden irrigation that baffled the minds of the younger generations who were called upon to help out with his inappropriately named 5-minute jobs in his last few years. With his skills as an engineer, home renovation and farming experience, there was really no job that Tom couldn’t perform around the house and they became very independent and settled living in their slice of heaven. Those early years in Canada were made much easier through the assistance of many friends and especially the close-knit community of neighbours which has persisted to this day.
Probably the biggest transition Tom and Margaret faced in moving to Canada was the difference between the English neighbourhood pubs and the Canadian beer parlours. However, this was soon resolved in 1971 with the discovery of the newly opened Crow and Gate pub in Cedar which was like a transplanted piece of the old country for them. Here they again quickly developed a whole new circle of friends and enjoyed many Friday nights playing darts and socializing with an ever-evolving group. Over the years as they became empty nesters Tom and Margaret discovered the joys of travelling which they kicked into high gear when Tom retired in 1995. Over the years they have travelled to all continents several times over, either with other friends, family members, or just the two of them, often preferring to take the road less travelled, rather than sticking to the normal tourist routes. They always returned with many interesting stories of places visited and new and long-lasting acquaintances made.
The main thing that kept Tom and Margaret returning home from their many adventures abroad, besides their love for their little farm and home, was their growing number of grand children: Mary-Anne (Jason), Pamela (Jordan), Joey (Chrissy), Jonny, Carly, Alicia, and Erin. They have also added numerous great grandchildren and a long list of neighbourhood youngsters who seemed to adopt them as surrogate grand parents over the years.
In 2010 Tom’s blessed life was threatened out of the blue by a massive stroke which left him with significant paralysis on his right side, and some impact to his speech, memory and other cognitive skills. However, he soon demonstrated to everyone what a fighter he was, amazing all the medical professionals that treated him with his resilience and willingness to work to get better. Within a year he was back tending to his vegetable garden, working all day to achieve what would have only taken an hour or two before, but his tenacity, work ethic, and never-ending support from Margaret made up for his reduced abilities. Tom and Margaret also continued to travel after his stroke, making several trips to visit family back in England and other parts of the world. When he wasn’t working in the garden, traveling, or entertaining grandchildren, friends or neighbours, Tom could usually be found walking for miles through the neighbourhood, or working out on his treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, or stationary bicycle. He never stopped trying to make a full recovery right up until the end. His tenacity and spirit were a great example to all who knew him, especially his family. Unfortunately, a series of strokes in July 2020 and one last one in October 2020 were too much for even Tom’s powerful spirit and he passed away peacefully with his ever-loving Margaret by his side.
Tom will be remembered by many people around the world as a loving, caring, hard working, fighter who never gave up. He was always ready to chat and enjoy the company of others, always had a story to tell, and ready to lend a hand wherever it was needed. Thomas, Tommy, Tom, Sweetheart, Dad, Man-zoom, Poppa, Chief and all the other names by which you were known, you will be missed.
National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering – October 15, 1955, Nottingham and District Technical College
First Class Marine Engineer – April 1966
Chartered Engineer, January 27, 1969 – Institute of Marine Engineers
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