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« Southwest Hydrology: Water-Energy Nexus Issue | Main | Ann Campana Judge Foundation: $15K Matching Grant Challenge »

Sunday, 16 September 2007

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Roommates

Nice info - a lot to think about thanks for this :-) I am just about to forward it on to friends that will be interested in it too.

Michael

Thanks, Bob. Tom was something else. I wish I had known him better.

Bob Lewis

I worked side-by-side with Tom for many years spanning dozens of models prepared for his many litigation projects. Tom was a giant who made the single greatest impact on my professional career and my consulting business, but more importantly, was as good a man as I have known. I am proud to say he was my mentor and my friend.

I could share a number of memories and stories about Tom, but perhaps the one story that sticks with me most exemplifies the fact that Tom was a real character with a great sense of humor. You see, Tom Prickett had the odd habit of collecting soap and shampoo from hotels around the world. He had a closet in his house full of this stuff. Tom mentioned at one point that he was no longer collecting this stuff because his wife needed the closet space and was getting tired of the stuff (you're such a good sport, Alice). So instead of throwing the stuff away, Tom started taking soap and shampoo back to hotels around the country and leaving a set in the bathroom before he would leave! Tom would leave soap from the Holiday Inn in the bathroom at the Weston! What a gas! I will miss him dearly.

Thank you for everything you've done for me and my family, Tom. You can rest now. The good Lord knows you didn't waste a second of your time here.

Michael

You are very welcome. Tom touched many lives - not just with his technical brilliance, but also with his concern for his fellow human beings.
My sincerest condolences to you all.

The Prickett Family

Our thanks to all for the wonderful stories and thoughts from this posting site. We were surprised at Tom's passing, but are comforted by the many friends and acquaintances that have come forward and shared their condolences with us. We have learned that he has touched many people and made a difference in not only our lives, but in the lives of many. He will be missed.

John Hoaglund

I am saddened to hear the news of Tom’s passing. I often say to colleagues, “I learned more about ground water modeling working with Tom for an afternoon than I did from all of my years of course work.” Granted the course work was already completed, and my mind was eagerly receptive to learning modeling’s practical application, but Tom was a master: not only did he have the answer, but he respected the place from where the question came. My opportunity to work with the master came while in consulting in Kansas in 1988. I had completed Mary Anderson’s ground water flow modeling course that spring while at Wisconsin. Back then, 3/4 of Mary’s course was learning the theory and programming of finite difference models using the examples in Wang and Anderson (1982), followed by learning the two standard Fortran ground water flow models: Modflow from the USGS, and Tom’s (and Carl Lonquist’s) “PLASM, ” i.e. the Prickett-Lonquist-Aquifer-Simulation-Model, Bulletin 55, 1971, from the Illinois State Water Survey. Mary always said the beauty of PLASM was that you could tailor it to your problem. When I moved to Kansas, someone contacted me because they heard that I knew “PLASM” and asked would I be willing to apply it to their site. It turns out what they actually wanted was Tom’s “Random Walk” contaminant transport model, Illinois State Water Survey Bulletin 65, published the year I finished high school, 1981. I had read Bulletin 65 in Mary’s course, but unlike PLASM, I did not have experience actually running it, so I pulled the ol’ consultant’s bluff, the bluff that leads to many late nights, and said “sure.” I snagged a copy of the Random Walk code from Marios Sophocleus at the Kansas Geological Survey and began to “tailor it.” Turns out the whole PLASM flow model is a mere subroutine call within Random Walk!

I got my chance to work with Tom when applying “Random Walk” to a landfill project we had brought Tom on as a subcontractor. Tom was surprised I was still using the Bulletin 65 version, having long moved on to his BASIC version of the code. The beauty of the BASIC code was the DOS-based interactive graphics. The assumptions and answers were no longer locked up in the input and output files, rather you “grew the slime on the screen.” For my Ph.D., I inherited a large 3D Modflow model, and needed a 3D transport code to go with it. By that time, the 2D BASIC Random Walk had become Tom’s and Don Koch’s Rand3D, still “growing slime on the screen,” but now in 3D! For my application, I needed to cross the “640K DOS barrier,” something that uncompiled BASIC code could not do, so I converted a few of Rand3D’s subroutines back to compilable Fortran. That’s when I met Don Koch as we compared notes: Don ultimately moved Rand3D from the world of DOS to the world of Windows, compiling a Fortran-based Rand3D with a Visual Basic graphical user interface. Since the transition of DOS to Windows, I’ve noticed that other contaminant transport codes have replaced Rand3D, largely because they were incorporated into commercial modeling software packages. I still prefer to use Rand3D among transport codes because I know what it does and can “tailor it.” Unfortunately much of the “tailor it yourself” philosophy, and a lot of great codes along with it, has not made the DOS to Windows transition.

Tom was always a delight to work with, always with a sense of humor, even when I was hired to work for the other side. Business was business, but that never got in the way of the excitement for modeling, new technologies, and the large vision he had for the field. He always had a Winnebago story to tell, usually following his Illini football team around the Big Ten. My favorite recollection: I had just finished reading an article about the increased risk of detached retinae associated with bungee jumping. I later met Tom at the airport who informed me he just had surgery for a detached retina. I just had to ask, “So Tom, were you just bungee jumping or something?” Instantly he rolled with it, sat back, gave that casual look of his, and said in his laid back manner, “well of course!”

John Hoaglund
GeoTrans Inc.

Donald Koch

I met Tom on a groundwater modeling project in 1978. He taught me how to use the model. We continued to occasionally work together for the next 25 years.

Tom was the rare combination of a brilliant scientist and congenial personality that made working with him a wonderful experience. He never failed to ask about my family and how they were doing.

What little success I have had over the years was almost entirely due to his tutelage. He will be missed.

Bev Herzog

I've known Tom since he hired me for his Camp, Dresser, and McKee office when I was fresh out of grad school in 1978. I attended Tom's funeral this morning. It was a wonderful celebration of his life, from a mischievious child, through college and his love for Illini sports, his love of family and friends, his proficiency in and love of music, and his outstanding career. The funeral home was packed. His funeral included many wonderful stories of what a multifaceted person and good friend/spouse/father/etc. Tom was. Tom's influence and legacy extends far beyond his career. His was clearly a life well led.

G Pence

I attended Tom's funeral this morning. I didn't know Tom as a ground water legend -- I knew him simply as Tom. He was Laura's dad and my oldest friend's father-in-law.

I was depressed as I entered the funeral home and I dreaded the looming memorial -- my sister passed away nearly 2 years ago and I laid my dad to rest almost exactly 1 year ago, so I've had enough funerals for a while.

Amazingly, I left the service feeling much better than when I arrived. There were 4 speakers to eulogize Tom's life -- his nephew, a boyhood friend, his college roommate and, finally, the Director of the IL State Water Survey. After more than an hour of music and memories, I felt like I knew Tom much better than I had before and I felt better knowing about his life, his loves, his accomplishments and his (few) failures.It really was a celebration of his life and his legacy.

Ironically, his burial plot is only about 30 feet away from my mother, father and sister's graves, so I will think of him often as I visit my own family plot.

Rest in Peace, Tom. You made the world a better place...

Michael Campana

That's great, Isobel. Thanks for sharing it.

Isobel McGowan, Bishop-Brogden Associates, Inc.

Tom was visiting our office back in 1989, prior to upcoming testimony regarding his peer review of a ground water model that was a key element of a matter before the Water Court. Our side's attorney, David Hallford, Esq. was going over the testimony that Tom would give. "So, Mr. Prickett," inquired Hallford, "would you say that this model conforms to the industry standard?" "Why,yes, yes I would." replied Tom. "And, Mr. Prickett, what is the industry standard?" (a brief pause) "Well, I am." replied Tom. And he was.

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