Thomas Ware

Obituary of Thomas Earle Ware

Thomas Earle Ware died peacefully on May 6, 2022. He was born to Orval Bertele Ware and Dorothy Brammar Ware in Cleveland Heights on April 13, 1931. He grew up and went to school with a close-knit group of lifelong friends that formed a club they cheekily named “The Esquires” and grew to become a very accomplished group. As a child Tom had a severe case of polio, which permanently weakened his legs, but while ill he learned to draw and developed an interest in art that led to his choice of career. The first person in his family to go to college, Tom went to Cornell, which offered a five-year degree in Architecture.

 

After a stint working as a draftsman at an architectural firm in Paris, Tom graduated from Cornell in 1955. By then a passionate midcentury modernist, he went to work for Jack Terrence Kelley, an innovative architect with a tiny firm. Through a contact of Tom’s, they had an opportunity to propose the design of the world headquarters of the American Society for Metals in Ohio. They proposed a 103-foot-high geodesic dome, a semispherical lattice of lithe metal beams, with no internal supports, showcasing the capability of the material. They won the commission; the dome was completed in 1958, and in 2009 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1960s Tom went to work at Austin & Co., where his work included design of a cluster of high-rise dormitories, a dining hall, and a space engineering research laboratory at Case Western University.

 

In 1968 he left Cleveland to take a government job in Washington D.C., at the National Bureau of Standards, and was among the first people to buy a home in the new architecturally planned community of Reston, Virginia, which he lived in for over 50 years. Back then, there was a cattle farm across from the entrance to Reston; now there are two Metro line stations and a superhighway.

 

While at the Bureau of Standards he co-authored a book on the process of building an office building, a practical guide to coordinating all the interdependent requirements of purpose, design, materials, systems, contracting, etc. that many architects viewed as the definitive work on how to build an office building. The Building Systems Section Chief wrote “This project has received national favorable attention as a landmark Federal experiment in building.” In 1971 the D.C. Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies presented him with the National Capital Award for Professional Achievement in Architecture. Later that year the Department of Commerce selected him as a Science and Technology Fellow. He eventually reached GS-15, as high as one can go in the Federal government without being elected or being a political appointee. There were sometimes benefits to the job, including being part of a private tour up inside the dome of the U.S. Capitol, given by the Congressman responsible for the building at the time, Gerald Ford.

 

Tom stood up for what he believed in, and while on assignment in the Office of Environmental Affairs had run-ins with the Secretary of Commerce who wanted to ignore scientists proposing regulation of environmental hazards. And when President Richard Nixon was under pressure to resign, Nixon would arrange TV photo-ops in which men in suits would cheerily wave him goodbye whenever he left the White House by helicopter. Tom was asked to be one of the cheering suits, and at some personal risk, he refused.

 

In 1972, he and his co-author left government to start an architectural consulting firm together, Building Technology Inc., where they both spent the rest of their careers, and which survives today. Much of the work was government focused, but not just domestically; they also did projects for the governments of Israel, Egypt, and Iran, where they had an office in Tehran with dozens of people, and wrote the building codes for the country. Occasionally, Tom also taught graduate level architectural courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and at George Washington University.

 

Over the course of his career he designed a wide variety of buildings, but his favorite was an idyllic Frank Lloyd Wright style home he designed for his parents. He also really enjoyed design in a broader sense, including art, classical music, fashion and style. In his youth, this interest extended to convertible sports cars, owning first a classic old MG TD, and later an Alpha Romeo Spyder, which he worked to restore.

 

Tom was also very much a family man, though not in the traditional way. His first two wives each gave him a child, and when those marriages ended, he wanted custody both times. He was unsuccessful the first time, with his son, but he succeeded with his daughter, and he made it his primary mission to raise her himself, which he did. At the time it was so unusual for a single father to be raising a child alone that he was featured on a local TV station program on parenting. Only after his parenting role was completed did he go and find his partner in life, Molly Leuchtner (née Chandler) and in 1995, within just three months of their meeting, they were married in Edinburgh, Scotland. After a quarter century together, Molly died on December 28, 2020, and Tom was never quite the same thereafter.

 

Tom is survived by his sister, Carol Brent, his son Thomas (Andrea) Ware Jr., his daughter Elizabeth (Michael) Brown, five grandchildren, Thomas and Annabel Ware, and Abigail, Allison, and Daniel Brown, and three stepsons, Robert, Edward, and Thomas Leuchtner.

A Memorial Tree was planted for Thomas
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