Long time Exploration Place board member and local historian Tom Dielissen died January 25.
“I equate The Exploration Place with you,” said Mayor Lyn Hall while pinning the Governor General’s Medal for Volunteers in late 2016.
There will be a service celebrating Tom’s life on Saturday, February 10 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church at 4 p.m. Immediately following the service there will a reception at The Exploration Place located at 333 Becott Place.
CEO, Exploration Place
Tom Dielissen set out to preserve and communicate our local history. His methods – kind, professional, dedicated, intelligent – made him a part of that history himself.
I can’t think of a time when Exploration Place didn’t have an open relationship with Tom. Ever since I’ve been a part of this facility, so has he. He was a member of our board for almost 25 years, and for 20 of those he was the chair. No one has shown leadership at this special operation quite like he has – not on the board, not on the staff. A lot of people around here go the extra mile, but Tom got there first and went a little farther.
Under his sharp vision and helpful spirit, we took this museum from a staff of six and a footprint of 11,000 square feet in the 1990s and turned it into the thriving, bursting-at-the-seams hive of activity it is today with more than 30 staff and an additional 12,000 square feet of award-winning space.
Many people were involved in the growth and transformation of Exploration Place over those years, but it was Tom who held the door to get the good ideas through and step in the way of the not so good ideas. He was always able to see the potential here, and he poured countless personal hours, all of them volunteer, to make sure we got the best outcomes.
One of the main reasons we have succeeded as a facility and organization is because Tom insisted we think about much more than just ourselves. Any not-for-profit charity like ours can consume you, take all your waking hours and your dreams too, but Tom pointed our attention to the rest of the community. That was his favourite word. To him, community wasn’t “a thing,” it was everything. We at the museum were introduced to university contacts, his church, the local theatre circle, charities for the less fortunate, government agencies, and countless businesses and individuals Tom felt we should form relationships with.
It wasn’t because he was trying to distract us, and it wasn’t because he wanted to show off his amazing contacts list. He did it so we could grow as people and Exploration Place could grow as a place of learning and entertainment and historical value. He taught us all that at the core of everything we do here is people. Community.
Tom was also more than a cocktail party board member. He was the first to put his shoulder to the wheel when the real work needed doing. It didn’t matter how mundane the job or how complex the situation, he was there with class and effort. Often he was the first one in and often he was the one turning off the lights and locking up at the end. Always, his tone was smooth and his smile came easy even if things were difficult.
Tom Dielissen was the kind of man you wanted around when you had to say goodbye to someone like Tom Dielissen. He was who you turned to. He was the steady hand, the rational heart. I have been blessed and honoured to have him as a friend and guide, and I speak on behalf of many who would say the same – so many across this Tom-touched community.
On behalf of the entire Exploration Place family, thank you, Tom. Our hearts are broken only because you filled them to overflowing with your wise counsel and wonderful personality.
To his many loved ones, please accept our deepest condolences, and our thanks for loaning him to us so profoundly.
To his beloved community, please accept our deepest pledge to carry on building this amazing museum and science centre that Tom so utterly believed in.
With the sadness of love.