By Steve Hopper 23/ 6/ 2016
With the passing of Tom Alford Kings Park and Botanic Garden has lost a great Friend and supporter, who played a pivotal role in establishing the Friends of Kings Park and leading as President during foundational years over these past two decades.
I first met Tom in 1992 when he was then President of the Western Australian Wildflower Society. As the new Director of Kings Park and Botanic Garden, I was keen to establish a Friends organisation, and wanted to ensure the Wildflower Society was comfortable with this proposal.
Tom, from the outset, was positively enthusiastic. He offered every assistance. Generously, he agreed to chair a formation working group, which spent six months preparing a Constitution and planning for the launch of the Friends of Kings Park. Premier Richard Court and Mrs Jo Court launched the organisation by planting the Friends Tree in the Botanic Garden on the 5th April 1993, and 53 people attended the foundation meeting of the Friends of Kings Park a month later on May 5.
Tom was unanimously elected President, with acclamation. He went on to serve the best part of a decade in this role, bringing business acumen, a friendly positive disposition, and a passion for native plants and all that Kings Park had to offer the community.
In 1993 Tom wrote: “As Perth’s most popular attraction Kings Park has the potential to be one of the great parks of the world.” He worked tirelessly to help achieve this vision before and after his retirement from Telstra. The strong relationship we forged together with the Lotteries Commission hinged on Tom’s ability to work through solutions to challenges in an inclusive and positive way.
His efforts were rightly recognised in 2008 with the award of Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘service to horticulture, particularly native plant conservation, and through support for Kings Park Botanic Garden, and to the community’.
At a personal level Tom and I enjoyed a close friendship united through shared views on making Kings Park and Botanic Garden stronger through community involvement. We had many laughs and shared great pride in the achievements that blossomed from this collaboration.
Tom’s late entry into the world of wildflower photography reflected his passion and zest for life. Countless trips to the bush occurred to track down species of interest. He was generous in sharing experiences and photos taken.
Tom often used the word ‘special’ in describing people, places and plants. Aptly, he himself merits the adjective. He was a very special person, and he will be long remembered for his contributions.