Tom Blackwell Memorial Fund


We received word this week of the passing of a beloved member of our El Araj excavation team.   


Tom Blackwell joined the excavation in the 2017 season.  Tom always had a passion for archaeology, but it had taken a back seat during his long successful career in finance management with British Petroleum.  In retirement Tom found the time to follow his passion and dig at places in the US and abroad:  Native American dwellings in Cortez Colorado, Montpelier James Madison’s presidential home,

and the Roman Vindolanda Fort in the UK.  But his work

in Israel struck a special chord in Tom.  Perhaps, it is beca-

use in his first season it was his trowel that first unearthed

the mosaics from the Roman bath that have proven to

be so decisive in advancing El Araj as the leading can-

didate for New Testament Bethsaida-Julias.  Tom was

hooked and returned every season thereafter.  



In 2018 he moved to Area B and joined our Hong Kong

contingent excavating Roman and Byzantine houses. 

They fell in love with Tom and entitled him “Super

Grandpa.”  Last season he worked both in the new excavations in Area C and later with Jim “Big Rock” Johnson (Tom’s nickname for him) helping to unearth the mosaic floor from the Byzantine Church of the Apostles. Archeology can be hard work and you certainly want to be in the square with someone who holds their own.  Tom was not only a very hard worker, but skilled in the technique of archaeology. Everyone wanted to dig with Tom. However, more importantly, Tom was caring, generous, and a friend to everyone on the team.  If you ever shared a square with Tom, you discovered a man of the highest order.  It will be difficult to imagine our summer evenings now without Tom sitting at the table at the “ATM” and rehashing our finds from the day. Although our time each summer with Tom was brief, we were all impacted by his character.  We mourn with his family and friends in their loss but we also take solace in the hope of the resurrection.  Rest in peace, friend.  


The family has asked that we set up a special memorial fund

for the excavation in Tom’s memory.  We will use these gifts

to assist students who desire to participate in the el Araj excavation.  


Gifts should be directed to CSACJO either by using the “TB Fund” button on the non-profit’s website: CSAJCO.org, or by sending a check to CSAJCO, P.O.Box 444, Suffern, New York 10901.  


In either instance, please designate your gift to the

“Tom Blackwell Memorial Fund.”