Nickerson-Bourne Funeral Home

40 MacArthur Blvd, Bourne, MA


Thomas Fox O'Brien

September 5, 1946January 3, 2020
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Thomas Fox O'Brien, 73, of Pocasset, MA, who passed away on Friday, January 3, 2020 surrounded by his family.

Tom was born in Waltham, MA, a son of the late Ambrose O'Brien and Barbara Lynch. He was the former husband of Jo-Anne (Choate) D'Amico. He is survived by his children Courtney O'Brien and Thomas O'Brien, sister Judy O’Brien, and brother Kevin O'Brien.

A veteran of the United States Army, he served in the Vietnam War. Following his military service, Tom began his career in marine technology with WHOI as an electronics technician. He served on the R/V Chain in the 1970s, including a global circumnavigation. He sailed on many other WHOI cruises and developed a passion for marine geophysics, data acquisition and processing. Following his tenure at WHOI, Tom worked for Gulf Oil for several years before returning to science in 1983 at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center on Quissett Campus.

Tom was an admired colleague and mentor during his 36 years of service at the USGS and in the Woods Hole community of scientists and engineers. He led many of the marine technology and seafloor mapping innovations for which USGS is known nationally and worldwide. Tom’s work included the hardware and software integration of analog and digital sensors, satellite navigation, and computers for collecting geophysical data from the deep sea to shallow estuaries. He was an early adopter of Unix-based computers and networking, and built the first USGS network in the Crawford building to prototype a seagoing multichannel seismic acquisition and processing system. His technical expertise was honed during many hundreds of days at sea on research ships, and spanned the technological transition from analog and paper recorders to fully digital data acquisition.

In 1988, Tom was a founder of the USGS Woods Hole Sea Floor Mapping Group, and formed the backbone of the national USGS marine geologic research effort across offices in Woods Hole, MA, Menlo Park and Santa Cruz, CA, and St. Petersburg, FL. His dedication and spirit for the job were recognized and appreciated by all those with whom he worked. At the end of his career, Tom was a patient, steady and consistent mentor to the next generation of scientists and technologists, both at sea and in the office.

In addition to a strong commitment to his children, Tom had a broad array of interests that he shared with family and friends. He was an avid motorcyclist from a young age. He took many trips to the Sturgis and Laconia Motorcycle Rallies, and also enjoyed traveling to MotoGP racing events around the country with his son. Tom relished anything technological, building and modifying computers, drones, and motorcycles. He also enjoyed fly fishing in the waters around his home on the Upper Cape. Tom was kind-hearted, candid, and cherished time with close friends and family.

A wake will be held on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 5:00 - 8:00pm at the Nickerson-Bourne Funeral Home, 40 MacArthur Boulevard in Bourne. A Funeral Service will be held on Friday, January 10, 2020 from 11:30am - 12:30pm at the Nickerson-Bourne funeral home, followed by a 1:00pm burial with full military honors at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.


  • Visiting Hours Thursday, January 9, 2020
  • Funeral Service Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Burial Friday, January 10, 2020


Thomas Fox O'Brien

have a memory or condolence to add?

David Mosher

January 16, 2020

As a marine geophysicist, I had heard about Tom for many years. I finally got to sail with him in the Arctic ... well, I was on the Canadian ice breaker and he was on the US icebreaker, but when we got together, we were instant friends. We shared a love of marine geophysics, programming in C, motorcycles and coffee. I thought I was a coffee snob, but holy cow ... Tom not brought his own beans (as did I), but Tom even brought his own water! Now that is dedication...

Graham Standen

January 9, 2020

Sailing with Tommy was always a pleasure and he had a wicked sense of humour. During the Bush years he told a fellow USGS colleague that he had heard that President Clinton's likeness was
going to be put on the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
This other guy who was a hotheaded Republican went from zero to rage in an instant much to Tommy's pleasure. It took a while before he realised it was a joke.

I wish to send you my most heartfelt sympathies for your loss of
Tommy .


Twig Nichols

January 8, 2020

Fair Winds and Following Seas my old friend...…. A better man never there was to have at your back in a raging sea... Love and Respect always...………...….

Rusty Gage

January 8, 2020

Uncle Tom,
It was you who started me on my path to loving Motorcycles, when in 1969 you pulled up to our house in East Dennis, opened the trunk and lifted out a 1969 Honda Z-A 50....well, been riding ever since. You also were my Hero for being in the United States Army, Vietnam MAC V , You inspired me to also serve in the Army for over 22 years....Everytime I deployed and when I returned I called you first, no matter what time of day or night it was. Serving on the R/V Atlantis 2 back in 1977 for a 2 week stint with you was such an experince and I will never forget it. You treated me and My Friends with respect and never seemed to get mad even when we screwed up (Laconia 1977). We rode, we laughed, we had Many "Tuborg Gold" Beer's and a few "Puff's" now and then. I love you with all my heart, Save us a seat at the do drop in Bar in Harley Heaven..You are and always will be my Friend, my Uncle and my Brother. Rusty,

Jayne Pierce

January 7, 2020

Tommy, I have such wonderful memories of sharing Henry T. Wing school days with you . You were not only a brilliant person destined to do great things (which you did),you were FUN! You had the greatest sense of humor. You always made me laugh. I echo Richie Cahoon's words and write my memories of you through tears.
God Bless you Tommy...rest in peace. You will be dearly missed
Jaynie Shelley

Dave (buck) butcher

January 7, 2020

I met Tommy back in 1971 at WHOI and became friends instantly , a few of us were motor cyclists enthusiasts and we were doing the (cafe ) thing hanging off our bikes like Reg Pridmore in corners around woods hole and falmouth back roads, ( he could drag his knee in corners without shredding his knee caps, Mike Malone, Phil Hodgkins , myself couldn't touch him ,Then when Kawasaki came out with their triple 2 stroke, ( Tommy and I bought one )he was like Mike Hailwood , not only could he ride he was brilliant! No matter who he met he touched their lives .he will be missed. Rest in peace my young friend , when you see Phil tell him I said Ducati s rule and Ural s need a mechanic to follow them around , adios Brother, fair seas and following winds. ......

Richard Cahoon

January 6, 2020

All during our days at Henry t wing school I considered Tommy my closest friend, and I write this I do it while looking through tears. Tom was the godfather for my son richie. Tom I love you as a brother and I you will always be missed. I am sorry I can not be there for you now. Sleep well!

Paul Henkart

January 6, 2020

My best story is 2009 trip on Healy in the Arctic when Tom borrowed my steel toed insulated boots (we're the same shoe size!) so he could work on deck when dredging. Boy did that make him happy. We were work bench mates for 40 days!
Always helpful in solving quirks in seismic recording and processing.

We never quite met up for a fishing trip, but I heard many stories.