Dr. Thomas W. Orme, Ph.D., age 79, passed away of natural causes on February 12, 2021 in Syktyvkar, Russia, where he lived with his wife.
He was born in Washington D.C. and grew up on the family farm near Hillsboro, Virginia, not far from another farm which his great grandfather operated. He attended Leesburg High School, the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and Tonbridge School in England, followed by Harvard University, graduating in 1964 with a B.A. He went on to become a biochemist, completing his doctorate at the University of Southern California. While studying in California, he became a competent mountaineer, hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains with fellow Harvard classmates who also traveled to California after graduation.
Between 1968-1971 he was a post-doctorate student at the Max Planck Institute for Cell Chemistry in Munich, Germany under the mentorship of Feodor Lynen, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist. Between 1971-1979 he worked at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, commuting daily by car and train at Harper’s Ferry from his farm located adjacent to his father’s farm. He then did a stint as a self-employed toxicology consultant before moving to New York to work for the New York Blood Center from 1983-1988. There, he made one of his lasting professional contributions, co-developing a patented process in the 1980s to remove acetone from blood serum after the acetone had been used to inactivate AIDS and other viral contaminants, thereby likely saving many thousands of lives. Also in the 1980s, he joined the Army Reserve, receiving a direct commission as Major Orme due to possessing a doctorate. He did much of his annual military service participating in research at the Natick Army Labs in Massachusetts.
After taking an early retirement facilitated by his annual patent earnings, he developed the family farm with the original goal of a farm science learning center. In the process, he established Grandale Restaurant, which he later sold the majority of while remaining an investor. Grandale Restaurant continues operating under the umbrella of the 868 Estate Vineyards in western Loudoun County.
A man of many interests, he played the accordion, sang in the Purcellville Baptist Church choir, farmed and sold produce at regional farmers’ markets, taught science and math at Northern Virginia Community College, studied and played chess and the Chinese game of Go, spoke fluent German, studied Latin and Greek and deeply read the classics of ancient literature as well as more modern writers such as James Joyce and German writers Thomas Mann and Gunter Grass.
In 2016 he moved to Russia to be with his wife, Natasha, who was a professor of English at Syktyvkar University. While there, he and Natasha founded an after-school program for dozens of students for whom he developed a science and math teaching system using Lego toys as educational tools. He also developed a keen interest in improving Russian-American political and economic cooperation, including promoting the Belkomur Arctic Railway project.
He is survived by his wife, Natasha Nesterets, his daughter, Shannon Orme, his two sons Thomas “Nathan” Orme and Michael Orme, his sister, Becky Russell, his brother, Dr. Lawrence Orme, his granddaughter Daphne Orme (daughter of Nathan) and his grandson Stephan Orme (son of Michael). He was proceeded in death by his father, Dr. Thomas W. Orme, Sr. and his mother, Evelyn Ross Orme.
A service will be scheduled for June when his wife visits from Russia.