Thomas Edward Dilley Profile Photo
1959 Tom Dilley 2023

Thomas Edward Dilley

December 25, 1959 — November 15, 2023


A celebration of Tom’s life will occur in Marshall, Minnesota on February 17, 2024 at 2 PM at the Schwan’s Regional Event Center at Southwest Minnesota State University, and this summer in Alaska near one of his favorite fishing holes. 

Thomas Edward Dilley died on November 15, 2023, in Minneota, Minnesota surrounded by the love of his family.  He was a Christmas baby, almost born in Turkey, where he spent the first three years of his adventuresome life. Tom’s family moved numerous times during his father’s career in the United States Air Force. 

As a child in Texas, Tom learned the value of hard work by helping his father to maintain oil rigs, for which he was paid one bit an hour (12.5 cents). After deciding Texas wasn’t big enough, Tom’s parents, John and Thea, moved their family north to Alaska in the early 1970s, making the almost 4,000-mile journey by truck. They settled in Anchorage with Tom and his sisters, Barbara and Lorie. 

Tom’s love of the out-of-doors and geology blossomed in the splendor of Alaska’s natural setting.  He became an avid fisherman and as an adult, served as a guide for clients, friends and family.  After graduating in 1978 from West High School in Anchorage, Tom’s curiosity and passion for geology pushed him to learn more. He completed both a Bachelor of Science, and a Master’s degree in Geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and ultimately, a PhD in Geology from the University of Arizona.  Summers during his graduate school years were filled with archaeological digs in remote Alaska regions, instead of fishing and backpacking. Tom worked with archaeologists focusing on stratigraphy, using volcanic ashes to date archeological sites, as well as determining the past climates of those sites.

Tom shared his knowledge of geology and the Earth’s processes with family, friends and students.  He taught undergraduate geoscience as a teaching assistant at the University of Arizona, as an instructor at Pima Community College in Arizona, as a visiting professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bethel campus. He also worked as a naturalist on many trips to the Copper Canyon in Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. Until his death in November 2023, Tom taught for almost 24 years in the Environmental Science Program at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. 

In the 1990’s, Tom proposed to Nancy Brown next to a glacier in the Chugach Mountains. They married at the Dog Musher’s Hall in Fairbanks, Alaska and lived in Bethel, Alaska. They eventually moved to Minneota, Minnesota where Tom discovered the joys of parenthood when his son Sean was born.  Tom shared with Sean his enthusiasm for fishing, campfires, national parks, mask carving, road trips, and especially, his love of Alaska, where their family spent many summers. 

Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Thea (Petermueller) and John Dilley, father-in-law Leo, and many aunts and uncles.  He is survived by his spouse, Nancy, their beloved son, Sean, his sisters Barbara and Lorie, his Aunt Ronnie, and his mother-in-law, Barbara as well as his sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Thomas Edward Dilley, please visit our flower store.


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