Tom Huff was born on December 24, 1928, in San Diego,
California, to Miriam Pool and Melvin Huff. Tom’s sister,
Margaret Jean, was born in 1932. The family lived in many
places when the children were young, including China,
Hawai’i and several places in Northern California.
Early in his life Tom developed an interest in music and
helping others. He attended a Presbyterian Youth Camp
when he was 14 and 15 years old, where he became inspired
by the camp minister to serve others. The local Methodist
minister also influenced him positively. Attending camp also
led to an opportunity for Tom to attend a summer choir
Tom’s involvement in music and service to others
increased while attending college in Stockton, California. He
sang in a choir and became active in the Student YM-YWCA.
After two years of college, Tom enlisted in the US Army as a
conscientious non-combatant. His job was to recruit soldiers
with musical ability to play in the band. Tom also played
clarinet in the band.
Returning from the Army, Tom continued his education
and earned his Master’s of Divinity degree at the Pacific
School of Religion in Berkeley in 1959. He served as an
assistant minister at San Leandro Congregational Church.
During this period, Tom met and married Caroline.
Their family would eventually include two children, Brian
and Stephanie. However, Tom’s early career interests led
him to return to his involvement with the YMCA.
Tom’s first job with the YMCA was at Mississippi State
University from 1959-1962. Tom helped students
understand the civil rights issues of the day, and encouraged
dialog and discussion. Tom went on to work for the YMCA at
Caltech University, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the
University of Pittsburgh. He helped many students provide
service to the community and develop their leadership skills,
including taking a group of students to the Philippines to
develop a school. In 1970 he co-founded an alternative high
school, which used a progressive instructional philosophy.
In 1980 Tom retired from the YMCA.
Tom had a very inquisitive mind and pursued learning
throughout his life. In 1980 he received his Master’s in
Counseling. This led to a job as Director of Admissions at the
Poughkeepsie Friends School. Tom joined the Poughkeepsie
Quaker Meeting in 1982.
Tom’s marriage to Caroline ended during this time, and
late in 1982 Tom returned to California. He moved to the
East Bay Area and joined the Strawberry Creek Meeting in
Berkeley. He continued his college work becoming an
admissions director at Holy Names College in Oakland.
In 1992 Tom met Barbara Downs. The shared a love of
classical music and a commitment to social causes. The
following year they moved to Hawai’i, where Barbara had
lived for 20 years and raised her family. By 1994 Tom was
attending the Honolulu Friends Meeting. Tom and Barbara
were married under the care of Meeting in 1994.
Ever active and interested in learning, Tom enrolled in
the ESL master’s program at the University of Hawai’i. He
went on to teach ESL at Hawai’i Pacific University. Tom
enjoyed life in the islands, joining the Honolulu Symphony
Chorus and joining Barbara for swims at Queen’s Surf Beach
and in an active book club.
Tom was active in the Honolulu Friends Meeting, and
transferred his membership from Strawberry Creek Meeting
to Honolulu Friends Meeting in 1999. He served on several
committees including the Worship & Ministry committee,
Nominating committee, First Day School, and the Meeting for
Healing. He served as Treasurer and worked to inform
military service members of their rights regarding
conscientious objection. Tom’s deep spiritual life, which led
him to be of service, was a valuable gift to Honolulu Friends
Tom was a man of integrity. He had a great laugh and
enjoyed good company and good conversations. He was
given to spontaneously singing snippets of pieces the
symphony chorus was performing and was usually smiling
and had a twinkle in his eyes. He was a good husband and
father, and helped many people over a long life of service and
Tom went home peacefully on November 13, 2016.
Tom is survived by his wife, Barbara Downs; son, Brian
Huff; daughter-in-law, Phyllis Huff; grandchildren, Jillian
Huff and Lucas Huff; nephews, David Cooper and Steve
Cooper; Barbara’s son, Paul Downs; and her daughter,
Kristin Corzine and her family: husband John Corzine, and
son, Sean Corzine. Tom is preceded in death by his daughter,
Stephanie Huff, and his sister, Margaret Jean Cooper.