Thomas Wolf

Obituary of Thomas Wolf

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Thomas Wolf, 91, passed away on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Chapel Hill, NC.  He was born in Frankfurt Germany and was the son of the late Martha and Arnold Wolf.  For over a century, the Wolf family owned soap factories.  Tom’s father was the chief chemist at the Dreiturm Company, which was expropriated without compensation by the Nazi government.  Therefore, his family emigrated from Schluchtern, Germany to Manchester, England in the mid-1930s, where they and his uncle’s family built the new Victor Wolf chemical company.  Tom attended boarding schools in England.  Prior to college, he was drafted into the Royal Engineers and then later into the Intelligence Corps for his required two-year army service.


He received a bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University.  A few years after graduation, he moved to America to work as a chemist in Newark NJ and then New Haven CT.  He soon met his future wife, Patricia (Peacock), through mutual friends in the New Haven ski club.  Tom had a new sports car (a snazzy Triumph TR3) but needed a navigator to be his teammate at road rally races.  Pat volunteered.  Unfortunately, Pat had very little sense of direction and turned out to be a terrible navigator.  So, they switched it up and she drove and he navigated.  It was a match in more than one way!  They were quickly married and he attended the University of Rhode Island, earning a PhD in 3 years and intending to return home to work at the family chemical business.  When those plans changed, they settled in New Jersey with Tom working for Colgate Palmolive’s Research and Development center.  His principal analytical interests were HPLC and TLC and, after 31 years, Dr. Tom Wolf retired as the head of the quality assurance unit.


During the 1960s, Tom and Pat enjoyed a decade of skiing and car clubs before growing their family.  After finding success with cats, they decided that they were up for the challenge of little humans, two daughters.  The foursome had memorable vacations, including travelling cross-country (twice!) in their Volkswagon camper where they visited numerous National Parks, trips to several Caribbean islands, and regular trips to England to see his extended family.  They also regularly vacationed in the Poconos, where Pat and Tom later bought a weekend/summer Hideout home and often hosted friends there.  They shared a love of arts and crafts festivals including the Milford Oyster Festival where he would slowly meander buying jewelry and crafts as gifts but often forgetting where he’d hidden them or who they were intended for.


Tom was a habitual runner for 5 decades until ankle problems sidelined him.  He was also a long-time swimmer.  During his lap swimming routine, he connected with members of the Rutgers dive club where he then became certified in SCUBA.  He completed over 350 scuba dives, mostly in the Caribbean.  He was thrilled to have twice parasailed.  Beyond islands, Tom and Pat’s travels included a South African safari, German Christmas markets, European river cruises, an Alaskan cruise, and a Costa Rican excursion to a very rainy rain forest. 


He will be remembered for many things, among them:  Emulating hair-raising race car driver tendencies (especially on the Cross Bronx Expressway); His attention to detail; His love of the British teatime tradition, Oma’s apple cake (kuchen), and fancy desserts from La Bonbonniere; His unique no-longer-British accent; His one-of-a-kind mustache; His large collection of self-help books on improving memory, tackling clutter, and procrastination…that he never seemed to cross off of his numerous to do lists; All errors or accidents being a catastrophe or a disaster; An avid photographer who disallowed “pandering to the camera” (i.e., smiling) and often photographed his subjects mid-mouthful or looking annoyed; His annual Christmas distribution of calendars; And his interest in wolves.  Two decades ago, he survived stomach cancer thanks to the [accidental] early detection of it (thank you, ulcer!).

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 55 years, Patricia.  Tom is survived by his two daughters, Susan Wolf and husband Paul Brodish of Carrboro; daughter Lynn Ellen Wolf and husband Eric Braxton of Philadelphia; grandson Henry Brodish of Carrboro; grandson Myles Braxton of Philadelphia; niece Christine Armitt of Warrington (UK); and nephew Steven Armitt of Manchester (UK). The family wishes to thank his long-time aide (Allison M.) for all of her help and friendship. 

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