Thomas Walter Dunnington, 84, died peacefully on Feb. 20, 2013 at Bethesda Home in Chicago, surrounded by loved ones. Born on Nov. 10, 1928 in Duluth, Minn., he was an artist, illustrator, youth worker, leader in the Unitarian Universalist community in Oak Park, and a Marwood Dunes Camp counselor for 40 years.
In Wednesday Journal's March 23, 2011 profile of him, Dunnington said this about the support groups he loved to lead at home and at Unity Temple: "I don't push any belief system. I recognize the value of their uniqueness. It's more important to be who you are. It's all you've got. … Our struggles have to do with our own inner being. Many of us want to earn respect, but we lose ourselves in the journey. Meaningful sharing of who we are enables us to see each other through a fresh set of eyes.
"You can be who you are. … You're the only one who can be you," he would tell those who attended. "You can only be a half-assed somebody else."
Tom Dunnington, despite illness late in life, never lost himself in the journey.
"It's about love, growth, responsibility, focusing on others and finding yourself there," he said. "It's an adventure."
He cautioned against "the danger of self-centered theology" and refused to "define spirituality too tightly. He described the conventional view of God as "Santa Claus with PMS."
"There are two sides to everything," he said. "There is no solution to life, just living it. … Pain and sorrow get all mixed up with punishment and reward. It's neither. It's just part of your path through life. You can recognize truth even in the middle of a hurricane. … I've learned to respect the word 'enough.' We're good enough."
What was it like being Tom Dunnington? we asked.
"It's a gas," he said.
Tom Dunnington is survived by and lovingly remembered by his "pretend wife" of 30 years, Carol DiMatteo; his children, Steve (Mary Ann Gwinn), Stan, Barb (Don Kreski), and Diane (Mike Hill); his step-daughter, Robin (Doug Gardner); his grandchildren, Jennifer, Katherine, Laura, Jeff, Richard, Sam, and Jack; his great-grandchildren, Emma and Madi; his brother, Ted; and his numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Tim; his brothers, Jim and Jon; and his parents, Dr. L.L. Dunnington and Helen French Dunnington.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St., Oak Park. The family requests no flowers.