In Passing: Thomas K. Hayes

Thomas K. Hayes

Oct. 20, 1923-July 29, 2012

Thomas was born at home in Concord, Mass. As a youngster, he found interest in trapping first, then hunting and fishing. Before going to school, he would check his trapline. However, when getting to school on one occassion, he carried a strange identity with him — skunk. It must have been the topic of the day at school. This was all back in the years of 1935 or so. He soon became interested in hunting and got himself an English Setter dog to do bird hunting. Pheasants were plentiful here in Concord.

Soon, life was to change dramatically since the war was on and he, like so many, had to go serve his country. He chose the Army Air Corps at the age of 19, and joined on Feb. 1, 1943. He became a radio operator and a gunner on the B24 with the 454th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, 737 Bomb Squadron. He served in Rome, north and south of France, and flew one of the earliest flights over the Ploesti Air Fields in Romania. His plane was shot down over Italy, spiraling before landing. All survived. Fortunately, they were taken in by Allied Forces. He flew 50 missions and lived to come home to his sporting life. He was discharged on Sept. 19, 1945 and home in time to hunt with his dog. His plane was called the San Antonio Rose.

Tom fulfilled his dreams of building his own house, enjoying the sporting life he loved and to live in the town he grew up in.

— Submitted by Malcom M. Speicher

 

Tom would be so thrilled if he could see the wonderful responses from so many. He loved his involvement in the Massachusetts Trappers Association. It was his mission to do all that he could to keep the association going.

He lived his life to the fullest. He fulfilled his dream of building his own home, fishing, trapping and hunting. He was a great friend to me of 60 years, a mentor and my love.

As a family, we decided to keep his death personal and private. His ashes will be placed next year in Prince Edward Island, where we both had great times canoeing and fishing. It is most peaceful there.

— Irene Hayes

 

In Memory of Tom Hayes

Oct. 20, 1923-July 29, 2012

We meet many people in our travels through life, but few hold a special place within your heart filled with memories and fondness. One of those people was Tom Hayes.

For those of you who do not recognize the name or are from a younger generation, Tom Hayes, of Concord, Mass., was a trapping legend in his time. He devoted the better part of his life to preserving our trapping heritage for generations to come. He received numerous awards over the years, including several from the National Trappers Association as well as awards for recognition of his steadfast fight to keep trapping alive, not only within the state of Massachusetts but across the entire country.

I met Tom more than 40 years ago when I joined the Bay State Trappers Association, which is now the Massachusetts Trappers Association. Even back then, Tom was well known for his muskrat trapping along the Concord River. We became lifelong friends when we both found ourselves in class to become trapper education instructors for the Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. From that time forward, a bond formed through our mutual love of the sport of trapping. Over the years, we became family. My wife and I considered Tom and his wife, Irene, as our adopted parents. Being with them was as if we had a live history book right in front of us.

Tom told stories of his trapping days as a kid, growing up in Concord, and above all, his days in the Air Force during World War II. He participated in hundreds of bombing missions and, during that time, had been shot down three times, some behind enemy lines. During one of those, he told me he had to trade his .45 handgun to a farmer to hide him in a hay wagon to get him into friendly territory. Not many have a story like that to tell. He never bragged about those days. They were just part of his life story. But to us, we knew we were in the midst of a real-life hero.

Back in the 1990s, the town of Chelmsford, Mass., developed a large problem with the overpopulation of beavers. At the time, the town had banned trapping within their limits. Tom, his wife, Irene, and many of us from the MTA became highly involved in the situation, appearing at town meetings and meeting with residents and town administrators about the problem. Through a concerted effort, the trapping ban was overturned, and Tom and I went to trap the beavers. Tom loved those days. Each morning, I would pick him up to check our traps and I don’t know if he was more excited about checking them or the stop at the local donut shop we made each day beforehand. He would return to the truck with a cup of coffee in hand and two of the sweetest cream-filled donuts he could find. Always with a smirk, he’d say, “Don’t tell Irene.” We were catching so many beavers, we couldn’t haul them out. So, the next day, I brought a masonry wheel barrow. Tom got the biggest kick out of it. From then on, I would fill the barrow and he would wheel them out to the truck.

The residents in the areas we were trapping were so happy to see us they brought out coffee and greeted us warmly. Tom had a smile from ear to ear. He was doing what he loved to do.

It was not until I became older that I wished I could have captured all those memories and stories for preservation. You knew that when the time came for Tom to be sent off to the trapline in heaven, many of those stories and memories would go along with him.

We spent many years traveling to Neil Olsen’s New England Trapper’s Weekend, where Tom would bring fresh veggies from his garden, which he tended with pride. He would always cook us lunch on his camp stove, enjoying hours of chat with local trappers and those we did not get to often see. We spent many times at their home or ours sitting over coffee telling stories that would become treasured memories.

Tom and his wife, Irene, became the backbone of the Massachusetts Trappers Association, which I believe would not exist today if not for their hard work, devotion and drive to keep our heritage alive. They never wavered or gave up in the fight to restore trapping in our state, spending countless hours attending meetings in the state house, town meetings across the state, giving interviews to local media and appearing on local television. It is through their efforts that the Massachusetts Trappers Association still exists paving the way for the younger generation to carry the fight forward.

Tom’s passing has left an empty hole in our lives and hearts, as well as the trapping community. We not only lost a legend but hero and treasured friend. Tom, it was an honor to have been your friend and until we met again, old buddy, we know that no matter where you are, you will continue to fight to preserve our heritage through those left on earth. Rest in peace, old friend. We will miss you beyond measure.

— Submitted by John and Debbie Benedetto

 

I first met Tom at a Fur Auction in 1977. My first impression was I finally met a true advocate for trappers. I listened to him speak with both compassion and authority. I left that day and said to myself, “I want to learn from this man and be one of his loyal warriors in the fight to save trapping in Massachusetts.”

I began as a director and watched Tom testify at the State House. I learned from him and established my own style. Both the members of the National Resource Committee and the anti-trapping community were always impressed by his special way.

Tom loved trapping and trappers. He also loved all the small wonders in nature, from blue birds to feral cats.

Tom introduced to the trapping fraternity throughout the country the animal rights movement’s tax return, displaying to trappers and non-trappers the fraudulent use of contribution monies made by the unknowing public.

Tom was terrific in his debates with the animal rights movement on television, radio and public debates. I always felt that even our enemies had respect for this man.

I thank my old friend Tom for putting the fire in my belly to protect trapping. I’m very fortunate to have known him. He gave us many years of trapping due to his time and energy. He was a true pioneer.

— Submitted by Dave Poirier

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