Thomas Kenneth McRae

BURLINGTON, MA and BRISTOL, NH – Thomas K. McRae, age 84, died on January 2, 2019, surrounded by his loving family. He passed away at home, peacefully holding his beloved wife of 64 years, Nancy. Tom was born on December 20, 1934, the only child of James D. and Eileen M. (Fitzhenry) McRae.  He was predeceased by his parents and many dear uncles, aunts, and cousins.  In addition to his wife, he is survived by his four children and their spouses:  Sandi McRae Duchesne & Bob Duchesne of Hudson, ME, Rick McRae & Reinhild Steingröver  of Rochester, NY,  Jim & Sue O’Reilly-McRae of Warwick, MA, and Dave & Sharon McRae of Columbia, MD.  He is also survived by seven grandchildren (Hannah, Sophia, Liam, Dana, Marcie, Tess, and Evan) and by a loving sister-in-law, Helen Hollingworth.  Nothing was more important to Tom than his family, and he deeply cherished the occasions when the whole clan could gather together.  He took great pride in all of his children and grandchildren, and marveled at the variety of life paths they chose.


Tom met his future wife, Nancy Hollingworth, in December, 1952, when they were both first-semester freshmen at the University of Massachusetts. Tom left school to serve his country in the Army during the Korean War, and married Nancy on October 9, 1954.  They walked hand in hand through their many years of married life together. He was always her hero, and she was always his treasure.


Early in his career, Tom accepted a job at High Voltage Engineering in Burlington, where he worked with the famed physicist Robert J. Van de Graaf in particle acceleration and early semiconductor technology.  As Tom’s career progressed, he became a field engineer and technical trainer at Extrion and Varian in Gloucester, a job that took him all over the world.  After their children were grown, Tom was thrilled to be able to bring Nancy along on some of his longer business trips. They especially enjoyed their extended business-plus-pleasure trips to California and Scotland.  Other memorable travel destinations included Alaska, Newfoundland, and Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, where his father and aunt were born. They loved to explore new places together, both near and far, although they also enjoyed nesting in at their home in Burlington and at Nancy’s family homestead in Bristol, NH.  Tom’s typical day in New Hampshire often involved a list of chores and outside work around the house, barns, and field during morning hours, followed by a swim in Newfound Lake and spending time with family and friends in the afternoon. 


Tom was a hands-on father who prioritized spending time with his children on nights and weekends. He taught his children to be honest, to help others whenever the opportunity arose, and to always follow their own moral compass. He shared his love of sports, games and the outdoors with his kids, introducing them to skiing, skating, hockey, chess, and cribbage in winter, baseball in the spring, swimming, sailing, and canoeing in summer, and football in the fall.  Many of his children’s friends still talk about the pickup baseball games in the backyard, with “Mr. McRae” pitching for both sides. He was an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts and the school band booster program.


Tom was a gregarious, good-humored man who made quick friends wherever life took him.  He was athletic and outdoors-oriented all his life.  He still regularly skated and even roller-bladed as an octogenarian, although Nancy insisted that he wear a helmet.  Tom took great pride in being Mr. Fix-It for his family, friends, and neighbors, whenever they needed help with carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, or auto mechanics.  If he didn’t already know how to do something, he could usually figure it out.


Tom lived a long, full and interesting life. He saw many places and things, and accumulated many stories that he was always happy to share.  During his final months, he wrote down many pages of lifetime memories, some of them very amusing, beginning with the first time he met Nancy at college.  This was a gift that will live on, and that his family will cherish for many years to come.


The family would like to thank all of the healthcare professionals at Winchester Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care, the oncology unit at Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, and the Winchester Hospital Intensive Care Unit for the excellent, caring treatment Tom received during his final illness.  He could not have asked for better or more loving medical attention as his health declined, and both he and Nancy came to regard members of their medical teams as almost a second family.  We would also like to thank Lahey Health at Home Hospice for their warmth and compassion when we brought Tom home at the end of his life.



Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V Sullivan Funeral Home, 43 Winn St., BURLINGTON (Exit 34 off Rt. 128/95 Woburn side) on Saturday, Jan. 12 from 3-4 p.m. concluding with Funeral Services at 4 p.m.  Relatives & friends respectfully invited to attend.     In lieu of flowers memorials in Tom’s name may be made to Winchester Hospital Foundation, Center For Cancer Care.  For directions & online guestbook see www.sullivanfune