Wilton lost one of its greatest supporters with the death of Thomas Adams on Dec. 16. Known familiarly as Tom, he lived in Wilton more than half a century.
During his time here, he left an indelible mark, not only on the town whose image he helped shape but on the people who knew him. Those who were asked to contribute remembrances of Adams described him as a gentleman, raconteur, mentor, and most notably, a friend.
He was the Adams of the Gregory and Adams law firm, who arrived in 1963 from New York City to assist attorney Julian Gregory with some trial work. He won the case and when Gregory invited him to join him in practice here, Adams accepted. He worked not only in private practice but also served as town attorney from 1967 to 1971. Over the years he also gave his time to civic groups such as the committee that oversaw the building of Wilton High School and a number of philanthropic organizations.
“Thomas Tilley Adams was never first selectman of Wilton, but he appeared to many as the honorable ’mayor’ of our town,” Katharine Welling told The Bulletin. “He knew nearly everyone by name, and his influence on young and old alike was a true measure of this great man. His bigger- than-life personality, generous spirit and wide smile will be missed in the town he helped shape over several decades. Old-fashioned in certain ways, he never took to the computer, but instead always preferred conversing face to face or writing a letter, which he often delivered ‘by hand.’ The impact he made by his presence or the power of his written word was extraordinary.”
Former Bulletin editor Gregg Bartlett recalled Adams as a man “who never sought the spotlight.” A veteran of covering many Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, Bartlett said when Adams presented an application, “he always gave a little history of the property in question.”
Casey Healy, a land-use attorney at Gregory and Adams, described his former colleague as “an exceptional man; my mentor and my friend. He taught me everything I know about land use. He made me a decent attorney and a better person.”
Healy recalled that Adams worked with Charles Dana, whose many charitable endeavors included donating the land that now is Merwin Meadows. He also arranged the donation of the Dana Barn, now the Christmas Barn, to the Historical Society and the Dana House, now Trackside Teen Center, to the town. And he brokered the agreement between St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and the Wilton Presbyterian Church that resulted in their joint campus.
Adams was also involved in the development of the town, working on:
- The Richardson Vicks world headquarters building at 10 Westport Road, the first major office building in town.
- The Village Market.
- The Homequity building across from town hall.
- Emory Air Freight’s corporate headquarters at 15 Old Danbury Road, now the Commonfund building.
- Glen River condominium complex.
- Wilton Hills.
- Wilton Meadows Health Care Center.
- The Greens at Cannondale.
- And in Healy’s words, “who knows how many single-family lots.”