L. Thomas Linden Was Former Tisbury Official

L. Thomas Linden, Tisbury executive secretary from 1988 to 1993, died suddenly on July 11 in Shirley, apparently of a heart attack. He was 67.

Mr. Linden was Shirley's town administrator from 1994 until the present.

A memorial service was held Monday at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Wayland, where he and his wife, Sally, raised their two daughters and made their primary home for 41 years. His family hopes to hold a gathering of friends on the Vineyard in the fall.

Mr. Linden is fondly remembered in Tisbury, in and beyond town hall. Aase Jones, secretary to the Tisbury selectmen, recalled him this week as a gracious person. "I never saw him angry. We disagreed on many things, but he was so generous, and bright. He'd send me a memo … he was so witty, and a meticulous craftsman of the English language. I kept all his memos for years."

"Tom was executive secretary when I started here, "said Jay Wilbur, Tisbury's harbor master since 1992. "We worked as a team - he had a cooperative point of view of what our job was, was always helpful and optimistic. He cared very much about his job and his town. I was very fond of the man."

Selectman Tristan Israel called him "a nice, gentle man. He was always good to me, a decent guy. It was a tough time."

After he accepted the position in 1988, Mr. Linden bought the house on the north corner of Main street and Daggett. His wife, a librarian at Wellesley College, joined him on weekends. He walked to work. After work, he'd walk to Net Result and buy whatever he found choice, enough for dinner for one.

"He was a perfect gentleman," said Louis Larsen, owner of Net Result. "I'd call him Mr. Linden, he'd call me Mr. Larsen. Then it was Louis and Tom. He'd buy six cherrystones, and wouldn't fold the bag. He always returned his bags looking like he never used them."

"He loved his food, he loved his wine, he loved to travel," recalled Aase Jones. "And he had a wonderful laugh. I loved his laugh."

Mr. Linden was a graduate of Noble and Greenough School, and of Harvard College in 1956. He attended Columbia Law School for three years, while macular generation of the central part of his retina gradually reduced his eyesight. Despite being declared legally blind in his third year, he was refused a reader for his exams, and he had to withdraw before graduating. Boston College Law School admitted him, provided him with a reader, and he received his degree two years later. He passed the Massachusetts bar exam on his first try.

He went on to work for the Boston Legal Aid Society from 1960 to 1966, then became counsel and administrator for the Eli Sandman Co. In 1983 he joined the Massachusetts Municipal Association as executive secretary, "turning his hobby into his vocation," according to his wife. He was a selectman in Wayland from 1968 to 1988.

While in Tisbury, he was asked by a group of environmentally concerned citizens to reactivate the harbor management committee. He agreed.

"Let's revive it, but let's not make this adversarial," Harriet Barrow, vice president of Tisbury Waterways Inc., recalled him as saying. He brought together the harbor management committee and TWI, and helped them to work together on such issues as pump-out stations, water quality testing and writing the pamphlet passed out to boaters. As a citizen, he became active in TWI and remained so until last week, providing help wherever needed, from legal to physical.

"He worked nonstop on the yearly clambake, "said Mrs. Barrow, "setting up and taking down tables, making the dip. He will be missed this weekend [the annual TWI clambake]. I could call him anytime for legal advice - he was invariably correct."

The respect the town of Shirley felt for Tom Linden bordered on adoration. The July 16 edition of the town's newspaper, the Shirley Volunteer, printed some dozen separate recollections written by, among others, a selectman, a librarian, an ambulance driver, the superintendent of schools, the town clerk and the chief of the Shirley fire department. The writers echo assessments heard in Tisbury since his death, describing him as helpful, intelligent, sensitive, incisive and fair.

The Boston Globe of July 13 quoted Ayer town administrator Anita Hegarty recalling "Mr. Linden's gentle manner." She added, "Tom was a truly genuine person. He was very down to earth, and always used common sense when dealing with contentious issues and day-to-day problems." Last Friday's Lowell Sun praised his humanity.

In addition to his wife, the former Sally Blumberg, Mr. Linden is survived by his daughters, Hannah, and her partner, Cheryl Scott, of Seattle; and Joan, and her husband, Jeff Coyne, of Roslindale. Also surviving are a younger brother Richard and his wife Leilani of Sherborn.

The town of Shirley has set up a Tom Linden Memorial Fund. Contributions may be sent to the fund at Town Hall, P.O. Box 518, Shirley, MA 01464.

At the end of Mr. Linden's memorial service in Wayland, a parishioner from the Unitarian Church climbed the steeple stairs and, wielding a wooden mallet, struck the Church's Paul Revere bell 67 times.