Thomas George Vracarich of Newport passed away on Tuesday, October 18 th , 2022 on the eve of Saint Thomas’s “Day of Repose”, according to the Orthodox Christian calendar. He was 80 years old and a member of the Holy Resurrection of Christ Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in Lebanon, where he was honored as the Kum (Godfather) of this year’s Annual Parrish Slava Celebration, on the Sunday of Saint Thomas, which falls on the Sunday following Easter (Antipascha).Tom was a soulful presence with kindness and wisdom emanating from his eyes. He was an esteemed elder, touching the lives of many with his wise counsel, his compassion, and his generous spirit. He was a charismatic, kind-hearted visionary within sightful depth, a witty metaphorical sense of humor, and a unique ability to bring people together and inspire them. He was a deeply spiritual and religious yet open-minded being, an unsurpassable storyteller and a strong advocate for what he believed in.
Born in Lebanon, PA, on February 12, 1942, to Levi and Geraldine (Kline) Vracarich, Tom served in the Air Force on the Eighth Air Force Command Base from 1960-1964. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and completed his graduate studies in Economics there as well. He was the Central PA Field Representative for Susquehanna Valley Regional Medical Programs (SVRMP), was the founding Executive Director of Pennsylvania Primary Care Association (PRIMACARE), and worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare from 1972-1978 and 1979-2002 (as Director of Policy for an unknown amount of that time) working on welfare reform to establish better benefits for those in need, regulatory review, control systems and health, safety and reimbursement rules for nursing homes and hospitals.
He led strategic planning for, and contributed to the development of, The Little Buffalo Festival of the Arts with the Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) volunteer committees. He later cultivated and headed the independent committee of “The Buffaloes”, who continue the legacy of the festival to this day. He received the Orthy Award for Excellence in the Arts on behalf of the Buffaloes, The Volunteer of the Year Award (1991), and the Service to the Arts Award (1994) from PCCA.
He spearheaded significant developments in the local community through envisioning the Moore Pavilion Stage project at Little Buffalo State Park, orchestrating the team to make it a reality, chairing the PCCA Pavilion Steering Committee, and organizing and leading 60 volunteers to build it. He received the Pavilion Award, along with the crew of “Buffaloes” he recruited in 1992.
He developed and advanced Penn’s Places (Pennsylvania Local Art and Culture Empowerment System) locally and in the Casey Administration. He received recognition for over 15 years of consistent leadership and service to Community Partnerships RC&D (Resource, Conservation and Development) as a Board member and as Vice President.
Tom had tremendous passion for Flamenco Dance and guitar and began dancing Flamenco when he turned 65. He performed at Harrisburg ArtsFest, Danzante School for the Arts, Little Buffalo Festival and Espresso Yourself Café with Paco De Nada, Camilla Erice, and for two of those shows, his daughter Lara Vracarich. He revered nature and enjoyed walking in the woods, gardening, writing, and studying/practicing religion and spirituality (including Vipassana meditation techniques and philosophies). He was an avid and extensive reader, enjoyed poetry, music (always quoting Bob Dylan in the most profound ways), having deep philosophical conversations, and spending time with his loved ones.
He is survived by his loving wife Carol Vracarich, daughter Lara Vracarich, a niece & multiple nephews, grandnieces/nephews, numerous extended family and many surrogate family members (close friends who have become family over the years). He was preceded in death by his mother Geraldine (Kline) Vracarich, father Levi Vracarich, and his son Toma Jacob Vracarich. He is deeply missed and will be remembered wholeheartedly.
Services will be held Saturday from the Highland Presbyterian Church, Newport with a viewing from 1 PM until the funeral service at 2 PM. with a reception to follow at 3:15. A Celebration of Life at the Moore Pavilion Little Buffalo State Park at 4:30 with live music, remembrances and fellowship. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in memory of Tom to the Perry County Council of the Arts or to the Susquehanna Riverkeepers Association.