Thomas Huff

Date of Birth

December 24th, 1928

Date of Death

November 13th, 2016

Memorial Meeting

Honolulu Friends Meeting


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 school.

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 Meeting.

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 contribution.

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.