Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join Today
Tom Thorne & Beth Williams Memoriam

Loss of Tom Thorne and Beth Williams

Tom and Beth, two very close friends, outstanding members of the Wildlife Disease Association and wildlife disease scientists of great skill were killed in a car accident on Wednesday night, December 29, when they were returning in a snow storm to Wyoming from Denver airport. A truck with a flat-bed trailer jack-knifed across their lane and they lost their lives when their pickup truck collided with the trailer.

The death of Tom and Beth is a great loss for their families, the WDA, scientists, friends and colleagues all over the world. Tom and Beth were not only regular members of the WDA; they were the most positive and enthusiastic members that one could find. Everyone who has been at a WDA meeting during the last 25 years can remember Beth or Tom presenting their scientific papers with enthusiasm, being active members of Council or the Editorial Board, but also taking active part in all social events. For example, what would the Annual Auction have been without the presence of Tom and Beth?

The loss of these dear friends and colleagues is enormous at both the personal and professional levels. For many, the personal and professional relationships with Tom and Beth were one and the same because once we had met them and worked with them on committees, research, editorial boards or on other projects, they instantly became our friends. This was not hard to imagine for those who knew them personally. Tom and Beth were also both highly productive scientists. Among many things, Beth was the first one to identify Chronic Wasting Disease in deer in Wyoming and Tom was the leading scientist concerning Wyoming wildlife and disease issues like Tuberculosis and Brucellosis. They both shared that wonderful blend of being extremely committed to and serious about their work while simultaneously displaying a sense of respect and caring for others and a sense of humor that made the world around them uplifting and positive. The extent to which Tom and Beth have enriched the lives of those WDA members personally is inestimable. However, their contributions to the WDA can more readily be put into words.

Tom was a member of the WDA by 1971. Over the years, he served on a wide variety of committees some of which were the Student Activities Committee (Chair, 1987-88), Sections Committee (Chair, 1981-82), Time and Place Committee (Chair 1980-81), Awards Committee, and on the Public Awareness Committee on many occasions to which he provided his special perspectives acquired as a scientist working in a resource management agency. Tom was elected Member-at-Large to the WDA Council for 1979 to 1982 and Vice President of the WDA from 1983 to 1985. Tom was a strong supporter of the Journal of Wildlife Diseases both through publishing papers in the Journal and also through serving on the Editorial Board from 1984 until his untimely death. Tom was the Chair of the organizing committee for a highly successful WDA meeting held in Laramie, Wyoming in 1981. Tom brought with him to all WDA meetings he could attend (which was most of them), wonderful contributions to the science of the meetings, a keen interest in the science of others, and a special collegiality with other participants that served to emphasize the WDA as a family of people sharing a commitment to the betterment of wildlife and achievement of that goal by helping one another. In recognition of his contributions to the WDA, Tom received the Distinguished Service Award of the WDA in 1996.

Tom also worked very hard but unsuccessfully every year for many years at the Annual Meeting to be considered for the Duck Award. Ever persistent and successful, Tom finally received the Duck Award in Saskatoon in 2003 after a wonderful story with a fantastic dress that he bought at the auction for Beth, a lady who seldom wore dresses.

Beth joined the WDA in or before 1978. She served on many committees including the Sections Committee, Student Activities Committee (Chair 1982-85), Editorial Search Committee, Nominations Committee, Public Awareness Committee (Chair 1993-95), Budget and Audit Committee and most recently as Chair of the ad hoc Journal of Wildlife Diseases "On Line" Committee that is ushering the Journal into the electronic age. Beth was elected Member-at-Large on Council for 1982 to 1985. Beth was an Assistant Editor and served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Wildlife Diseases from 1987 to 2000, at which time she was appointed Editor, a position in which she continued to serve the Association through to the present. In addition to all of her publishing in other journals, Beth was an author on more than 40 publications in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. Beth contributed greatly with excellent talks in the scientific sessions at annual WDA meetings and was the Program Chair for the 1981 meeting in Laramie. Beth was invariably inclusive and cooperative in assisting others. These characteristics are emphasized by the very large number of collaborators, both within and outside of the WDA, with whom Beth published. In 1996 Beth was awarded the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) of the WDA, the Association's highest honor. The DSA is not presented every year and has rarely been presented to more than one individual in the same year. It is befitting that both Beth and Tom were acknowledged with this award in 1996, a symbol of their shared contributions and commitment to the Association that meant so much to them.

The WDA Council has begun the process of developing a fitting tribute within the Association in the names of and in memory of these two exceptional friends and colleagues. Those wishing to make contributions may do so on-line by credit card through the WDA business office website ( or by mailing donations to the business office (Wildlife Disease Association, P.O. Box 1897, Lawrence, Kansas 66044-8897, USA). Donations may be made payable to the WDA noting that they are for the 'Tom and Beth Tribute'.

In addition, the University of Wyoming has two initiatives that it has been developing to support Beth's work. One is the Richard and Barbara Powell Wildlife/Livestock Training Fund, which is designed to bring students in veterinary medicine and visiting scholars to campus to work on wildlife diseases. The second is an endowed chair in wildlife-livestock diseases that was designed to free Beth from diagnostic work and allow her to focus on her research. Both of these funds are already partially funded. Those wishing to make donations to either of these University of Wyoming funds can contact Anne Leonard ( who heads the development office in the College of Agriculture.

A memorial service for Tom and Beth will be held Wednesday, January 5 from 10:00 - 11:00A.M. at the University of Wyoming Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus in Laramie If you go to the map of the campus of UW it is marked as Fine Arts - it is near the Arena sports auditorium.


Torsten Mörner                       Ed Addison

President WDA                        Executive Manager WDA


581705 White Oak Road
Yulee, FL 32097 USA

Contact Us

Local: (904) 225-3275
Fax: (904) 225-3289

Connect With Us