In Memoriam: Thomas D. Rennie


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death May 29, 2006 of retiree Thomas D. Rennie at Falmouth Hospital. He was 83.

Tom was born May 8, 1923 in Santuit, MA and attended Barnstable High School, graduating in 1941. He also attended Massachusetts Maritime Academy for a year and a half before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1944, serving with the 7th fleet in the South Pacific during the invasion of Guam and the Philippines.

He first joined the Institution staff  in September 1946 as an assistant engineer on the research vessel Balanus, leaving a year later to work at the Town of Falmouth's pumping station as a steam engineer. He returned to WHOI in June 1948, working as a refrigeration mechanic and in ship repair until 1956, when he left WHOI again to take over the family trucking and landscape business. Although self-employed until July 1965, he maintained a "consultant" status with the Institution and was called from time to time as a ship repair construction supervisor, generally on the research vessel Chain which had just joined the Institution fleet.

In 1965 Tom decided private business was not for him, and with some persuasion by the "shop gang" returned to WHOI again as a senior mechanic.  His skills in diesel and steam engineering, air conditioning, mechanical equipment, engine repairs and the like were put to good use in 1969 during the Alvin salvage operations, when Tom sailed as chief engineer on research vessel Crawford.

During the construction of Clark Laboratory from 1972 to 1974, Tom was assigned as plant mechanic overseeing the installation and operation of the complex heating and air conditioning systems of the Institution's largest building.  He was promoted to senior mechanic in 1974, named senior plant mechanic in 1977, and was promoted to plant supervisor in 1981 before retiring in 1988. Through the years he also had responsibility for McLean, Crawford, Gosnold, ESL, Fye and the Shore Lab, some 17 buildings in all.  He handled the varied responsibilities, from midnight emergency calls from the security guard when the ESL alarm went off to hanging pictures in offices for staff, with a smile.

A quiet man, Tom was a dedicated employee whose knowledge and abilities were admired.  He was a mentor and advisor to many in the Facilities department and took great pride in his work. He operated equipment and machinery at peak performance, often returning at night to shut down equipment to take advantage of heating/cooling efficiencies, to save wear and tear on machinery, and to save fuel costs for the Institution.

Survivors include his wife, Sally (Bearse) Rennie of Cotuit, MA; a son, Ted Rennie of Cotuit; a brother, Francis Rennie of Cotuit; and several nieces and nephews.

A graveside service will be held Thursday, June 1, at 1 p.m. at Mosswood Cemetery on Putnam Avenue in Cotuit. Memorial donations may be made to the Cotuit Firefighter's Association, P.O. Box 85, Cotuit, MA 02635.


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(Photo by Shelley Dawicki, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)