We are absolutely heartbroken and devastated by the loss of our our longtime volunteer and friend, Tom Cleveland, who passed away last Tuesday morning.
Tom has touched every aspect of Indian Creek Nature Center: leading children through the woods during a school field trip in the morning, spending his lunch hour removing invasive plants that he had seen on that morning hike, and returning to lead another educational program in the afternoon. Always helping to instill the love of nature into the next generation. This was his daily routine.
His dedication and commitment never wavered. For six years he showed up, passed along his vast knowledge to hundreds of visitors each week, went home each evening to research something that had been discovered during his day, sending his interesting findings to the staff and being ready to share his newfound knowledge the next day upon his return. In 2019, Tom received the Jack in the Pulpit award — an award given to our most dedicated volunteers. We could not have asked for a more committed, passionate, and enthusiastic volunteer.
Tom had a special way of connecting with people. Whether he was walking through the Nature Center or sharing a meal with staff, he made a point to say hello to all, by name. Outgoing and friendly, Tom’s warmth and laughter put everyone at ease. Once you met him, you were his friend.
Many of us visited with him regularly, stopping to chat wherever we might bump into him to learn about his latest adventures or something new to pay attention to. Ever curious, he’d ask about your interests and hobbies to get to know you better, and would be sure to remember for next time. Conversations with Tom flowed easily, and his knack for storytelling kept every interaction interesting. We were fortunate to spend so much time getting to know him, and him us.
We are thinking of Tom’s family, friends, and all who had the pleasure of knowing him. His life touched all of our lives. Though he has moved on from this earthly life, his presence remains steadfast in the work we do and through all of the Champions of Nature he inspired.
We will all miss him so much.
Tom’s visitation will be from 10 AM to 1 PM on Friday, March 18, at First Lutheran Church, Cedar Rapids. A memorial service will begin at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to First Lutheran Church, Indian Creek Nature Center, or Boy Scouts of America Hawkeye Area Council. See Tom’s full obituary here.