Thomas Frank Fondell, 61, died peacefully in his Anchorage, Alaska, home on Sunday, April 16, 2017, from pancreatic cancer.
He was born on Feb. 5, 1956, in Minneapolis, Minn., the third of seven children to Frank and Rose Fondell. Tom was raised in Minnesota, where he learned to love the outdoors and the Minnesota Twins. One of his first jobs was batboy for the Minnesota Twins and he remained a lifelong fan. In high school, he and his brother bought lake front property in northern Minnesota, which remained a very special place for him. He visited it for the last time in October 2016. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, in 1974, where he was class president his senior year and a successful wrestler.
He went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management from University of Minnesota in 1979. In 1997, he earned a Master of Science in Wildlife Biology from University of Montana. Following his undergraduate degree, Tom did biology fieldwork in numerous places including the Louisiana bayous; St. John's River, Fla.; Minnedosa, Manitoba; and Ruby Valley, Nev. From 1982-1987, he volunteered for the Peace Corps assisting the locals of Central African Republic and Malawi in developing fisheries and beekeeping. From 1987 to 1990, he worked for the Peace Corps as a Training Director in Malawi.
In 1991, Tom returned to the U.S. and had his first stint in Alaska, as a biology technician with Fish and Wildlife Services. Following completion of graduate school, in 1997, he returned permanently to Anchorage and began his 20-year career as a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center, specializing in waterfowl. He was a very dedicated biologist who loved fieldwork, which took him to many wild places in the state. He was a committed writer who worked tirelessly to publish and share his scientific findings with the goal of sustaining the earth and its species.
Tom was a member of the American Ornithologists' Union, The Wildlife Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists. His other interests included Nordic skiing, biking, birding, hiking, reading, dip netting, hunting, berry picking, environmental concerns, listening to his "friends" on NPR and Alaska Public Radio, ice skating and playing hockey.
Not only was Tom a dedicated biologist and a master at leading field teams, he was known for his kindness and generosity, and coupled with his wide-ranging travels, resulted in many friendships during his lifetime. He was cherished for his quiet, gentle soul amongst his friends, family and the many people he met. Tom greatly valued his friends nearby as well as those thousands of miles away, and he devoted much time to nurture his friendships. Minnesota always was a special place to him and he remained very close to his family there.
In Alaska, he found his partner, Melonie Rieck, a fellow Minnesota transplant. In the last 10 years they built a home together and married. He so loved his life, giving him the courage to valiantly continue his fight against cancer until he recognized he had no more to give. He spent his final days as he had desired, at home in the bright Alaskan spring sunshine with Melonie by his side and surrounded by the love and comfort of his many dear friends and family.
Tom is survived by his wife, Melonie in Anchorage; his parents, Frank and Rose Fondell of Minneapolis; his sisters, Renee Miller, Michelle (Michael Wilson) Fondell, Jeanne (Randy Flandrick) Fondell and Annette Turner, all of Minnesota; brothers, Chris (Lauren Braswell) Fondell of Minnesota, and Joe (Robin) Fondell of New Jersey; as well as many dear nieces, nephews and cousins. His paternal and maternal grandparents and his nephew, Connor VanKeuiken, preceded him in death.