William Thomas Dennett Jr. (also known as Tom, Tommy, or TD), of Middletown, RI, passed away peacefully on September 1, 2023, at the age of 60 with his children by his side. Born on January 29, 1963, in Newport, RI, he was the son of Patricia (Pine) Dennett and the late William T. Dennett.
Tom is survived by his son Tyler Dennett and daughter Brittany Dunbar, son-in-law Brian Dunbar, golden retriever and best pal Sparky, his mother Patricia (Pine) Dennett, sisters Denise Higgins, Lisa Hoffman, and Trish Capra, and former wife of 30 years Mary Dennett. He was a supportive uncle to over 30 nieces and nephews including John Schwemin, Heather Hoffman, Sarah Czepizak, Shaina Hoffman, Justin Capra, Jake Capra, and Jamie Doerr.
Tom’s energy and curiosity were limitless, leading him to explore the world with several different career paths. Growing up in Middletown, just a short walk from the beach, he developed a deep love for the ocean- finding solace and joy in its vastness. Each morning you could find him enjoying a cup of coffee watching the sunrise before hitting the water to catch the perfect wave. Tom’s passion for the water extended beyond surfing; he also enjoyed all types of fishing, boating, cliff diving, skateboarding, and lifeguarding.
Beyond the ocean, Tom was an all-around talented athlete. He was the QB for the Middletown Islanders football team and held several school records that stood for many years. He continued to Western Connecticut State University with a scholarship for football. While there, he knew there was a wealth of opportunities and adventures waiting to be explored that compelled him to heed the call of his adventurous spirit.
Professionally, Tom started from scratch, using his own capacity for problem solving to create a successful career in technology and media communications. He began his career in Newport at NUWC and quickly rose to head engineer of his department. This sparked more curiosity, so he took contracts with numerous companies including NASA, Boeing, F1, Harmonic Inc. and Thomson Grass Valley. His work brought him to various corners of the globe, creating lasting friendships and connections wherever he went. Working for these companies, Tom found himself able to travel all over the world to countries like Germany, France, Brazil, and The Philippines. Tom also worked throughout the US, including South Carolina, Maryland, Florida and most importantly, California, where he and his young family lived in Huntington Beach for 15 years.
Tom changed gears, as he was known to do, and created new and unique opportunities for himself; he owned a Christmas tree farm in Ellicottville, NY, became a licensed massage therapist and opened his own spa with his then wife. He also started his own company, Health Care Video Solutions, where he developed and launched one of the first electronic medical records platforms. The technology he created then is still the basis for many systems still used in hospitals today. During this time in his life, he was able to enjoy more quality time with the ones he loved most. You could find him travelling on his motorcycle through the countryside, and snowboarding, dirt biking or building model rockets with his children. Tom would also tend to his farm- where he most enjoyed cruising the land on his John Deere tractor.
In 2011, he experienced a debilitating accident while on a work trip that left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. After his injury, he moved to Florida to be closer to family who could support him as he transitioned into this new way of living. If you believe an injury of this magnitude would deter such an active person, you are greatly mistaken. Tom adapted; he moved with the changing tide, just like the ocean. He woke up with a smile on his face every day, just grateful to be alive. Tom never let his new limitations stop him from continuing to enjoy life. He persistently stayed active and still enjoyed countless hobbies. Through Oceans of Hope Foundation, he was even given the ability to surf again.
To his family, he was affectionately called Superman, due to his seemingly invincible nature and unwavering spirit that defied any challenge life threw his way. As he always told his children “When you fall down, get back up and catch the next wave”. His infectious personality made an impression on everyone he met, and he continued to collect lasting friendships, many in which he kept in contact with up until his final days. Anyone who knew Tom, knew he was the type of person to give you the shirt off his back. He lived by the words “give back to people when you can, where you can.” His memory will forever be cherished by those whose lives he touched. When you think of Tom, we ask you to think of him riding the perfect eternal wave somewhere over the rainbow.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to an organization that helped bring Tom back into the ocean through their adaptive surfing program, Oceans of Hope Foundation.
A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at his favorite hangout spot, “Surfers End” at Second Beach, in Middletown, RI on Sunday, September 17th, 2023 beginning at 2:00pm, allowing friends and loved ones to gather and share fond memories of this remarkable man. Tom’s Celebration of Life will also be livestreamed at link.memorial/dennett, providing an opportunity for those he touched around the world to attend virtually. If you’d like to share a one-minute video of your memories of Tom, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We ask those attending in person to wear your favorite island attire, bring a chair, a shell, and a story of Tom to share.
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