Longtime CHC archivist Mooney dies
In this 2011 photo, Cherokee National Historical Society archivist Tom Mooney displays a copy of the Boston Chronicle from 1768, which is part of the CNHS archives. The newspaper mentions a meeting between a Cherokee and English delegations. Mooney died on Dec. 1. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Longtime Cherokee Heritage Center archivist Tom Mooney has died at the age of 70 and is being praised by friends for his nearly 40 years of dedicated service to the CHC.
He was born in Tulsa on Oct. 12, 1948, and died in Tahlequah on Dec. 1. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 at the Reed-Culver Funeral Home in Tahlequah.
“Tom Mooney and I met in 1974 when we were both in the Trail of Tears Drama. I worked with him from 2000 until 2014 when we retired as archivist from the Heritage Center. He was truly a man dedicated to civil cause and awareness,” said CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel. “He never had a bad word to say about anyone and always kept positive. He was a wealth of knowledge not just to the Cherokee National Archives, but common knowledge. His health failed him but his brain and mind never wavered. He was a servant to the Cherokee people and enjoyed what he did. His wealth was never money or riches. It was in his friendships and loyalties to those friends. I already miss him greatly.”
The Cherokee Nation also released a statement about Mooney.
“We are deeply saddened to share with you the passing of our friend, colleague and longtime archivist, Tom Mooney. Although not Cherokee, Tom dedicated almost four decades of his life to the Cherokee Heritage Center and the vast collection of more than 400,000 historical documents and items that he cared for during his tenure,” the statement reads.
In 1987, Mooney authored “Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry,” an award-winning basic genealogical research guide that is still in print today and can be purchased at the CHC gift shop. In 2012, he was awarded the “Stalwart Award” by the Cherokee National Historical Society. A CHC supporter who has served as a longtime member, volunteer, employee, board member or associate and has significantly contributed to the center’s success is given the award.
In 2015, he was honored by Principal Chief Baker with the “Samuel Worcester Award” for exemplifying CN’s values in the preservation of Cherokee culture and history.
“I’m finding it hard to find the words to express how much Tom Mooney meant to me, not just as a coworker, but as a friend. To me, he is the Cherokee Heritage Center,” said former CHC Curator Mickel Yantz. “He dedicated his life to the center for four decades, and he always made it feel like family, not work. His wonderful humor and stories keep running through my mind today making me smile at times when it hurts. You will be missed by many. Thank you Tom.”
Cherokee beadwork artist Martha Berry said she grew up with Mooney, as Tom’s father and her uncle were best friends.
“I have known Tom since we were toddlers. We were in the same first and second grade classes. Later in life, he had a tremendous influence on the re-establishment of beadwork as a Cherokee art form. He was such a constant in my life. I guess I thought he'd always be there. Rest in peace, my friend. I thank you, and I already miss you,” Berry said.
Cherokee historian and friend Catherine Foreman Gray said she learned “so much” from Mooney.
“Tom dedicated his life and work to the Cherokee Heritage Center for four decades as the archivist. He was a wealth of knowledge, and he loved what he did. I’m going to miss his humor, knowledge and friendship,” she said.
As the director for the CHC, former Tribal Councilor Troy Wayne Poteete worked with Mooney.
“Thomas George Mooney was the institutional memory of the Cherokee Heritage Center, which includes the Cherokee National Museum. Like Marty Hagerstrand, (a CHC founder) Tom married a Cherokee woman and became one of the most loved and respected people within the family of families that is the Cherokee Nation,” Poteete said. “He was a co-worker a few years and many years a friend, and his passing at such a young age leaves a great sadness. I’m certain my sense of loss is wide spread among the hundreds who have known him over the years.”