Thomas D. Kent

Born: Summit, NJ on 09 November 1929

Passed away: Lafayette Hill, PA on 20 January 2016

Aged: 86 years

The Story

Thomas Kent, 86, died January 20th, from complications due to congestive heart failure. Husband of Ann Matthews, and son of Stephen Girard and Philena Marshall Kent, Tom was born and raised in Summit, New Jersey and graduated from Lawrenceville School in 1947 and Williams College in 1951. He lived at The Hill at Whitemarsh in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.

Following Navy service as a Communications officer and Navigator aboard the USS Chemung during the Korean conflict, he entered Columbia Law School in 1955. While still a student, he met his future wife whom he married in June 1957. They would have celebrated their 59th anniversary later this spring.

Tom joined the law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore in New York City after graduating from Columbia Law School in 1958. In 1963 he accepted a position in the legal department of Allied Chemical Corporation (later Allied Signal), from which he retired as Staff VP and Associate General Counsel in 1989. A specialist in environmental law, Tom was a committee member for numerous professional / trade associations, testified before congress on several occasions, and lectured at Harvard Business School, Williams College, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the University of South Carolina. After his retirement, he and his wife moved to Seabrook Island, SC where he enjoyed competitive tennis and world wide travel.

He had a long time association with Camp Susquehannock in northeastern Pennsylvania, starting as a tennis counselor while in college and, decades later, serving as Interim Director for two seasons. His sons attended as children and both rose to be members of senior staff. Tom's grandchildren have all been campers as well, with many of them also serving as counselors.

Tom was a lifelong athlete, with a particular passion for racquet sports, regularly earning age-group national rankings in both Squash and Tennis until he retired from competition at the age of 84.

In addition to his professional activities, Tom had a strong commitment to community service. In Summit he served as President of the PTO for Lincoln School, as President of The United Way of Summit and New Providence, and as a member of the City Council. On Seabrook Island, he was president of the property owners association, on the board of the Seabrook Island Club, and in Charleston served on the board of the Coastal Community Foundation. Of particular pride was his leadership role in the establishment of the first public tennis courts on Johns Island, SC.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter Celia Marin Kent (John Abernethy) of Waltham, MA and their children Marin and Mackenzie Abernethy; son Thomas (Tim) Kent, jr (Maude) of Ardmore, PA and their children James and Mia; and son Robert Kent, of Rockville, MD. He is also survived by two step-grandsons Dr. Abraham Abernethy and Dr. Jacob Abernethy, as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his older brothers Stephen Girard Kent and Dr. George Marshall Kent.

Thomas Day Kent Sr.
Eulogy - by TDKjr.

My old man did a lot of things in his long life. It was an eye opening exercise helping put together his obituary – he was involved with so much and accomplished a lot. That said, when all is said and done, it is not the “What” so much that matters in life as the “How”. It is in this way that the life of Tom Kent shines so brightly, and why all of us left here today remember him so fondly. He touched all our lives where it matters most, with love. He cared about people and people cared about him – he was a genuinely “good” man. He understood what mattered in life and what didn’t; he spent his life’s energy, very pragnatically, trying to make this world a better place. In whatever endeavor, he gave it his all. Dedicated, determined and with just the right amount of gritty stubbornness!

The way one plays games says a lot about the way one goes through life. Anyone who has had the privilege of meeting my father on court, be it squash, tennis (or even paddle or ping pong), learned right away that my old man was a competitor, …a very fierce competitor. He loved to win (and hated to lose), and the closer the battle, the tighter the contest, the more focused and determined he got. …and he won …a lot. The trophies that lined the shelves in our living room growing up and boxes more of them in the attic can attest to that. But when the final point was over, win or lose, my father would shake his opponents hand, and together they would head off to get a beer (or 2) and revel in recalling the highlights of the match. And no doubt before they parted ways, they would have scheduled a date for a rematch. He understood instinctively that your greatest rivals should at the same time be your greatest friends. And since he had such a wonderfully wide ranging group of rivals, he was therefore blessed with many good friends.

In order to instill in his children this same spirit of healthy competition, he bet us all that we wouldn’t be able to beat him in tennis before we reached the age of 18, and in squash, by the age of 21. Later, just to wet our appetite I think, he added ping pong to the list for the nominal sum of $25 if we could beat him before we were 16. In full recognition that my father didn’t play any ping pong, we saw this as the low hanging fruit and the 3 of us practiced regularly. I believe we all managed to win that bet, but the Wiley old man was able to keep us youth at bay in both the others. He was a real competitor and he was never going to let anyone beat him if he could help it. So if by chance you are among the few to have scored victories over my old man, you can be sure that you earned it authentically, with your own sweat and talent, for it would never have happened otherwise.

So we shed a tear for him today as we reflect upon our lives now without him, but even as we do so, we can’t help but reflect upon all the good times we had with him and the wonderful fun that he so eagerly and wholeheartedly embraced, and which he shared with us so liberally and lovingly. …and then, through our tears we find ourselves laughing as we shift our focus from our sense of loss, to a sense of celebration – for a life well and fully lived, a life blessed with the love of family and friends. How very lucky was he …and how very very lucky are we.

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