July 17, 1931 – December 27, 2020Thomas H.S. Brucker passed away on December 27, 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19. In 2018 he suffered a major stroke that left him partially paralyzed, but still always fought to get stronger and find meaning in the world around him.
Tom was born in 1931 in Cambridge MA, the youngest son of Herbert Brucker, journalist, and Sydney Cook Brucker. Tom joined the Navy after graduating from Williams College, touring 4 years in the Pacific during the Korean War.
After completing Columbia Law School, while interviewing at a firm in Portland, OR, he took a brief trip up to Seattle to see what it had to offer him. He never looked back. While studying for the Washington State bar exam, he met a young prosecutor, Mary Wicks, who could offer him both a place to study, and company exploring the surrounding mountains. They married in 1962, in Omak WA, her hometown. This was the first of many parties thrown in their 58 years together! They moved to Mercer Island the year following, and have lived in their same house ever since.
Tom worked as an attorney for 25 years, as an Assistant US Attorney and later in private practice. During this time, he fought for protection of the wilderness he loved, including in the North Cascades, Hells Canyon, and even Pioneer Park and Ellis Pond on Mercer Island. In the mid-1980s he found new purpose teaching at the UW Business School until retirement in 1996. At the UW he helped start the Environmental Management Program, which helped students incorporate environmental considerations into business decisions.
He and Mary enjoyed exploring the mountains of the Northwest. They climbed together with friends, from Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens to the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades. They stopped climbing after Mary fell and broke her back in 1973, but continued backpacking each year with their family and friends, continuing long after their children were grown.
Tom discovered a love for bicycling in his 50s, taking his first major ride across the US in 1989. They had many adventures by bike following this, from the backroads of Idaho, to France, to Vietnam. He was often the oldest rider on a trip, and loved passing others slowly on the up hills. Two months before his stoke, he spent his 87th birthday on a bike trip with his granddaughters.
Everywhere Tom and Mary traveled, they made connections and life-long friends. They opened their house regularly to visitors from near and far. Their dining room table was one to linger at – telling stories, drinking wine, and eating good food. While he could not do this in his last 2 years, he continued to stay aware of news and politics, and felt strongly about voting in the 2020 election.
Cranky and opinionated, he could also be outgoing, funny, and engaging. He loved tennis, scotch, bicycling, interesting conversation, the whistle of marmots, and his family – not necessarily in that order. He is survived by wife Mary Brucker, daughter Allison, son Christopher (Walter), daughter Rachel (Jeff), sister Sydney Sowles of Boston, grandchildren Lillian and Olivia, nieces and nephews, and many friends. His family want to thank the many caregivers, therapists, nurses, and others who cared for him in the last 2 years. He was not always easy to care for, and we appreciate you immensely!
He would appreciate anyone so moved to make a donation to North Cascades Conservation Council, any organization protecting the environment for the future, or a charity of your choice.
Published by Seattle Times on January 10, 2021
TOM, A REQUIEM
by Brock Evans
Oh what a sad loss, both of a close personal friend and of one of the finest conservationists I ever knew.
I first met Tom at one of those passionate Congressional North Cascades hearings in Seattle, mid-1960s. We became fast friends then, and forever after. I still cherish many memories of evenings by his home fireplace on Mercer Island, sipping his scotch, and talking about — well everything… before savoring one of Mary’s wonderful dinners.
What a loss for our state’s conservation/wilderness community too… Tom was always right there, serving on our committees and boards; going to those seemingly endless meetings with decision-makers, always there with the rest of us, during those intense years of struggle: from saving Horseshoe Basin in the Pasayten to the Stop Kennecott Mine campaign, to our efforts to enlarge the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, down to those early efforts to protect the ancient forests of the Bumping Valley in the Cougar Lakes country… and everything in between. Tom was there.
Tom and I explored a lot of the North Cascades together then, especially some of the lesser-known places. I have special memories of a pioneering hike across the Picketts at Whatcom Pass, then down the Chilliwack and Big Beaver valleys (1966); and another, down the Cascade Crest, on the then-little-known Ptarmigan Traverse, 1970.
Tom , a most skilled lawyer and great advocate, was always there whenever the need arose for such abilities during all those years. His great skills weren’t just important for our North Cascades efforts either. Early on, I — a rather inexperienced young lawyer — approached him about helping me in a new campaign to rescue the last free-flowing stretch of the Snake River, in Hells Canyon — and he gladly became my co-counsel in our legal battle to halt construction of a dam there.
These were my first legal proceedings in a federal court, and I was very nervous; what do we do and how do we do it? Experienced Tom, always calm and unflappable, always knew just what to do… and after a three year trial,we won. Three more years later we, together with many wonderful Oregon and Idaho activists, succeeded in passing legislation, creating the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
Saving this deepest North American canyon forever.
To better describe Tom Brucker’s indispensable role in this great success story — one of the very 1st environmental legal actions in the whole Pacific Northwest — I invite you to click HERE to read several pages from my new book, which clarify his important role more exactly.
Comments from the N3C Facebook post about Tom’s passing:
He also litigated with Brock Evans before the FPC in 1967 in case against a dam in Hells Canyon. Case and evidence led to successful legislative effort to stop the dam and establish the NRA there. A true hero and champion!!He leaves an amazing legacy. I am forever grateful for his work to save the Skagit from more dams.
Tom was the real deal – genuine, caring, passionate, kind, fierce, funny and always supportive. He knew when to fight and how to have fun. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. The mountains have called you home. R.I.P.
Ugh, so sorry to hear this. Tom was one of the kindest, most forthright, and most principled people I’ve ever met. A great man and a great role model. RIP.
I floated the Snake River through Hells Canyon with Tom on a five-day trip in the early 1970s, and very much enjoyed seeing him a few years ago in La Grande at Brock Evans’s surprise birthday party. Just yesterday I had made myself a note to give Tom a call. Never wait to catch up.