LANCASTER—Dear Daya, Your full name was Thomas Patrick Vaughan, but you were better known to all as Tom, Dad, or, to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Daya (a nickname bestowed upon you by a grandchild unable to pronounce “granddad,” which you always wore with pride and good humor).
You were born October 15, 1932, into a closely-knit Irish family in Detroit, Mich., to parents Bridget Clayton and Eugene Vaughan. As the oldest son, you were very protective of your brothers and sisters, Mae, Owen, Sharon and Christopher Clayton.
After a stint in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, you came back to Detroit and met the love of your life, Janet, who would later become known to your grandkids as Mom-Mom. Your marriage of 58 years taught us what true love and the perfect relationship was.
In your early years, you worked in aerospace on the Mercury Redstone project. Then, deciding to return to school, you earned a PhD in the Horace Rackham program at University of Michigan. You and Mom-Mom did this while raising four children: Kevin, Kathy, Chrisi and Sheila. You taught at Boston College and St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, challenging classes in schools of business: operations research, statistics and other quantitative classes. You were a natural-born teacher, always making the most complex of subjects understandable, and you never stopped teaching—or learning—even after you retired. Your passion for education as both a teacher and a student never faded.
Your love of baking and cooking was well-known and enjoyed by everyone. You also had a talent for drawing and an artistic eye for color, and enjoyed meeting with the morning class at the Rappahannock Art League. You were a skilled woodworker, too, and the clocks and bookcases you made became family treasures. Anything you did with your hands was a masterpiece, whether it was woodworking, drawings, or home-baked bread.
Your favorite place was at the beach with family, either in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or on Cape Cod, Mass. And you greatly enjoyed visits to Maine to spend time with Kevin and his family.
You never met a stranger. You could make friends with anyone just by striking up a conversation, even in places like the checkout line at the grocery store. You always had a story for everyone you met, and you made it your mission to find out what someone’s interests were. If they were interested in it, you were interested in it. You had a knack for remembering your grandkids’ interests too, all of our favorite movies, books and bands. Your attention to what was important to us always made us feel valued and special. We could tell how you were always so proud to introduce us to others as your grandchildren. We are proud to be your grandchildren too.
Because of you, our childhood was filled with magic, with our family traditions of enchanted Christmas nutcrackers and your stories of unicorns in the backyard. When you read us bedtime stories and tucked us in at night, you sent us on fanciful trips in our dreams to the Royal Ball in Baltimore—because where else would a ball be held? We always loved your imagination and sense of humor, even when you teased us about serving Orange Roughy—an unimaginable horror!—for dinner.
With your dry wit and appreciation for Irish sensibility, you taught us all the art of a good joke and how to handle adversity with humor. Your motto was “plan for the worst, but hope for the best.” Kindness was your moral compass.
You never met a problem you couldn’t solve until last June, when you were confronted with cancer. The last months were a challenge, even with the loving care of Dr. Kevin McGrath, and Hospice of Virginia. Wonderful nurses like Julia Dunaway and Jalisa Reed cared for you with utmost kindness and dignity. Even while battling cancer, you never lost your concern for others.
You were parted temporarily from us on March 12, 2017, at age 84. Left in your wake are the family who looked up to and adored you: Janet Vaughan; Kevin Vaughan, Becky Noonan (Carl Dow), Erica Noonan; Michael Vaughan; Kathryn Darby (Dan), Bridget Gonzalez, Katy Hoover (Clint), Lincoln Hoover; Laura Gonzalez (James Hoadley); Sheila Vaughan (Jim Dedie), Owen Billard and Tommy Billard.
We are such lucky people to have been loved by you. The wonderful lessons you taught our parents, they have passed along to us. The unconditional love and support you gave to your children, you also gave to us. We’ll miss you, Daya, until we see you again on the other side of the faraway ocean you have crossed before us.
With all our love,
Becky, Michael, Bridget, Katy, Laura, Owen, Tommy, Erica, and Lincoln.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Heifer International, an organization Daya and Mom-Mom supported for years.
A visitation will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, March 24, at Currie Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held later, date and location to be determined.