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Thomas

Thomas Paul Durnell

d. August 6, 2018

THOMAS PAUL DURNELL  Thomas Paul Durnell, 59, a lifelong artist and Director of Facilities at the Woodmere Art Museum for 34 years, died August 6 at his home in Germantown of cancer.  He is mourned by his four sisters, a brother, and their spouses, his nieces and nephews, and a close circle of enduring friends in Germantown and Chestnut Hill. “Tom was a timekeeper,” said his next-door neighbor and long-time friend, Michael McGeehan. Tom’s assemblage art, sculpture, drawings, and prints were suffused with commentary on the passage of time. No ironic detail of life escaped his notice, as represented for example in the shiny mobile homes he sculpted and soldered which, to him, transport occupants ‘into nature’ together with all the comforts of home.  His acute eye for objects marked by time included an assemblage of the whiskers shed by a cat, month after month, year after year; assemblages of animal bones; and bird houses made from the wood of a black mahogany tree that he planted as a young man in his yard and that decades later fell. He was a 1983 graduate of the Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art of Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, majoring in sculpture.  He commenced his college education at Tulane University, then transferred after two years to Tyler, having chosen to pursue art over medical studies. Since 1986, he made his home in the Ulrich Podmer House on East Haines Street, Germantown. In 2016-2017, the house was studied intensively by a team of historic preservationists from the University of Pennsylvania and judged to be “highly significant due to its early construction date” and the preservation of its original character. The first owner, Ulrich Podmer was a carpenter who emigrated from Germany around 1746, the same year that the first parts of the house were constructed. East Haines Street was one of the first streets built to cross Germantown Avenue in the 18thcentury. The report notes that Mr. Durnell once found a musket ball buried in his back yard.  He also put some of his backyard finds into an assemblage of fragments of everyday life spanning the house’s long history. As Director of Facilities at Woodmere, he was responsible for the management of the historic 1850 home-turned-museum and its grounds.  The museum also acquired two pieces of his art for its permanent collection. Mr. Durnell was a long-standing member of Our Mother of Consolation Catholic Parish in Chestnut Hill, where he served as an usher for the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass for at least 15 years. He was born February 22, 1959 in Saint Marys, Ohio, a small town in the west central part of the state. He was the son of Thomas Allen Durnell, a jeweler, and Doris Jean Inderrieden, a hospital laboratory administrator.  Both are deceased.  He was one of six children. Among his survivors are his five siblings: Catherine Durnell Cramton of Bethesda, MD; Colleen Durnell Gilmour of Dallas, TX; John Nicholas Durnell of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; Maureen Frances Durnell of Seal Beach, CA; and Bridget Durnell Mauro of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. He is survived by a sister-in-law, three brothers-in-law, four nieces, three nephews, and by close friends from art school, the museum, his church and his daily life.A visitation will be held Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 9AM followed by a Funeral Mass at 10AM at Our Mother of Consolation Church, 9 E. Chestnut Hill Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118. The Woodmere Art Museum will hold a tree planting memorial in honor of Thomas’ commitment to Woodmere and to the cultural community of Philadelphia at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 7, with refreshments to follow on Woodmere’s porch. The museum is located at 9201 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill. You are cordially invited to attend.  
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Saturday, September 22, 2018

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

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