Thomas L. Duff of Manchester and Oak Bluffs died May 31 at Kaplan House in Danvers. He was 84.

He was born in 1934 to John Carr and Gladys Hays Duff in New York, N.Y.

Tom was a man of principle, committed to religious contemplation and action. He received a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Allegheny College and a master’s in education through New York University. Following college he served as lay pastor at a Pennsylvania church and began work as a high school teacher. A conscientious objector, he served as a medic in the U.S. Army during the war. Later he attended, and occasionally wrote sermons to share with, the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers and the UU Society of Vineyard Haven.

In 1963 he married Deborah Beveridge and they raised their family in Essex. He began a long career with the Ipswich public schools, serving as school adjustment counselor. He always looked out for the interest of children, which often meant giving temporary shelter in his home (anywhere from a couple days to a couple years). He was also a passionate advocate for mental health and spent 17 years on the NS Mental Health Advisory Committee.

Tom was a passionate singer and added a strong bass voice to any song. He sang in church choirs at a young age and, later, with the Allegheny Singers, The Helmsmen, The New A Capella Singers, The Manchester Singers, The Martha’s Vineyard Spirituals Choir, and any gathering that welcomed a voice. It was a great joy for him to sing with his grandchildren and know that his passion for music carried on.

In 1988 Tom married Jacqueline Murphy Duff, and enjoyed more than 30 years in her company. During these years they traveled to over 40 countries around the globe. The last trip was made when he was 81. He surprised his family when he returned with reports of dancing each night and of riding ziplines through the treetops of Costa Rica. He dearly loved Jackie and the homes they made together in Manchester and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Tom loved the Vineyard and summered there for over 80 years. His father bought a small cottage in Lagoon Heights in Oak Bluffs in 1937. It was on the Vineyard that Tom developed the enthusiasm for swimming and sailing that would follow him throughout his life. He first swam across the Vineyard Lagoon at age four, and in his final years enjoyed a daily half mile swim at State Beach. Even when his legs began to fail him, he took to using a pitchfork as a sturdy staff to reach the water.

His first job at age 14 was skippering and teaching tourists in rental boats in Vineyard Haven. He sailed with Manchester’s Frost Biters before drysuits made this a safe activity. In his 60s he began building small boats. The last was a catboat which he enjoyed for years in Vineyard waters.

He loved to dance and cancer and canes didn’t stop him. In 2016 he arrived on the Vineyard and found friend David Crohan playing at the Portuguese American Club. After tapping his toes on the sidelines he climbed onto his canes and hit the dance floor. With the help of a willing partner the canes were cast aside and the partner spun from hand to hand.

Tom was predeceased by his brothers John and Robert. He is survived by his wife Jackie, and by his three children: Thomas Duff and his wife Peggy of Essex, Elizabeth Duff of Gloucester, and John Duff and his wife Jocelyn of Ipswich, as well as five grandchildren: Eliot, Lindsey, and Jenny of Essex and Teaghan and Talia of Ipswich.

Funeral services will be held on June 23 at 1 p.m. at the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers. Memorial donations can be made to The Talia Duff Foundation, P.O. Box 588, Ipswich, MA 01938 or online at