Tom died the way he lived, with exuberance. He passed away surrounded by family on Thursday, October 19 of pulmonary fibrosis.
Joy, gratitude, passion — love. At the end of his last day, the end of a fruitful life, this is what burned brightly within Tom Stoner. Though he is gone, this is what remains. The intensity of those qualities he radiated was so great, we feel their warmth today.
Tom grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. He had an intellectual rigor seeded in the Cranbrook School, where he built his first crystal radio set, and then in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He loved living in Annapolis, MD, and sailing the Chesapeake Bay.
Tom was a seeker driven by a desire to foster deeper human connection, fueled by his boundless creativity and his steadfast belief and genuine joy of partnerships. This was a constant throughout his life as he built Stoner Broadcasting, a national radio company, and then co-founded American Tower, what became the world’s largest network of cell phone towers. He also turned his attention to politics, becoming a statesman during the latter half of the Cold War and co-creating the Conflict Clinic. He served to protect his beloved Chesapeake Bay; and then he co-founded Nature Sacred, a foundation devoted to fostering healing and human connection in nature. In all, he was finding a better way.
He sought societal and global change with humility, recognizing that humanity lives in the seemingly mundane exchanges between people — holding a door open for someone, looking others in the eye, a nod and smile in a grocery store line. He understood the profound link between these brief moments and the formidable challenges of society.
A few years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a decade before the widespread availability of the Internet, he initiated "World Talk"—a radio program connecting everyday Russians to engage in conversations with everyday Americans. Using technology, he orchestrated a human-driven response to a real global, political challenge.
A renaissance man deeply rooted in Midwestern values and ideals, Tom delighted in art, was a published author, and took up croquet and piano at age 70.
It was his work with Nature Sacred that he considered his life’s most important and what absorbed him for over a quarter century.
Nearly three decades ago, in a London city park, Tom and Kitty, his wife of 50 years, experienced a shared transformative moment in nature. It was in that serene space, enveloped by a sudden profound sense of calm and healing—that the germ of an idea was formed. Upon their return to the US, they set about founding the TKF Foundation, which would later become Nature Sacred. Through this work, he helped bridge gaps, brought solace, and instilled hope.
Tom was a magnetic force of nature, drawing individuals from diverse backgrounds—landscape architects to Wall Street investors, neuroscientists to prison wardens—into the world of Nature Sacred’s mission.
“Finding a better way" — throughout his life, in all that he pursued, drove Tom Stoner. The way that he went about this was as remarkable as his achievements themselves.
His friends and family feel like he really did do it all. A life well-lived.
Tom, an only child, loved his bountiful, beautiful family into who they are today. He is survived by his wife, Kitty; four children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
A private family rite of passage has taken place. Memorial services are being planned.
To stay updated, go to https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/11503088 for details as they are available.
In the interim, Tom would have wanted those who love and know him to find a spot in nature to breathe freely.
In lieu of flowers, the family invited donations to Nature Sacred and memorial messages at https://naturesacred.org/tomstoner.