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A New Chapter In Tom's Life

Published: 01 Dec 2014

Dr Tom Atherton has led a remarkable life with a treasure of memories about people, places and events that shaped the world we know today.

He has been a scholar, lecturer, church minister, chaplain, a champion of Greek language and culture, and an outspoken advocate for refugees.

Now, at the age of 79, he has added a new chapter to his amazing life story with an autobiography entitled Dr Tom! Who Do You Think You Are?

On Friday 21 November, family members, friends and colleagues gathered for the launch of the book at Aldinga Beach Court, where Tom has lived in residential living since 2006.

After so many decades of eloquence as a lecturer, public speaker and conversationalist, Tom’s capacity to talk has been slowly, but steadily stolen by Parkinson’s disease.

Yet, his mind and memory remain sharp as has his capacity to record the past with such clarity.

Clients, staff members and volunteers at Aldinga Beach Court have marvelled at Tom’s ability to reflect on his interesting life and to put the many twists and turns of the story together with incredible detail.

Initially, Tom was able to dictate his words for Life Care volunteers to type the draft manuscript. More recently, he worked the alphabet on a large keyboard that he addressed with the index finger of one hand. The computer literally gave Tom his “voice” again.

The result is an autobiography going back to his childhood in Lancashire when England was so susceptible to nightly bombings from German aircraft.

It tracks his progression to bank clerk, migration to Australia, learning and lecturing at university, becoming a Minister, living in America, returning to church duties in Woomera and fighting for the rights of refugees held behind high fences at the remote outpost.

The book is written with the warmth, wit and intelligence of a philosopher and as a man who describes himself as a “dreamer and visionary.”

At the book launch, Tom’s thoughts on his life were expressed with the following words: “I have followed my dreams and some of my dreams have become a reality.”

In his book, he says simply: “I am not unhappy. I can read. I have good ears to listen. I am very grateful that my mind has survived. I have had time to reflect on a long life, and a useful one I think.”

Sharing most of Tom’s life journey has been his devoted wife Judith, who spoke about how the progression of Parkinson’s disease had forced their parting when Tom became a client at Aldinga Beach Court.

But, Aldinga Beach Court Chaplain, Sue Ind, said at the book launch that Tom’s arrival at Aldinga Beach Court was the start of a new chapter in a life well lived.

“With their positive attitudes, love for each other and ability to laugh, Tom and Judith have been an inspiration to us all,” Sue added.

Among those to congratulate the author were Life Care Board Directors, Graeme Murley and Alan Young.

“It is very exciting to see that life does not stop even with an illness like Parkinson’s disease,” Graeme said. “It is also a credit to Life Care for the way it is supporting people like Tom with resources to express themselves.”

Copies of the book Dr Tom! Who Do You Think You Are? are available at Aldinga Beach Court.