Tom Andrew Caraher, who was a longtime Sonoma resident, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 20, 2011, at the age of 58.
Tom was born in Greenock, Pa., in 1952. In 1973, Tom came to Sonoma and opened a restaurant called Bon Voyage with his brother Billy. In 1986, Tom met his lifelong partner, Kit Chelini.
Tom was a popular waiter who was dedicated to his work at the Swiss Hotel restaurant for 18 years. His knowledge of fine wine and food pairing was exceptional, earning him a gold medal for a wine list for the Sonoma Hotel restaurant. Tom enjoyed weekly gatherings with his friends from the Wine Exchange. He was an enthusiastic and educated cook and had attended culinary classes in Marin. He shared his talent by teaching cooking classes. He also attended hotel and restaurant courses in San Francisco. Tom was an avid ornamental, vegetable and herb gardener. He maintained the Swiss Hotel restaurant's garden and he used vegetable and herbs from his garden for cooking. He was passionate about foraging for mushrooms and was a member of the Sonoma County Mycological Association.
He loved collecting whimsical mushroom items and displayed them in his garden and throughout his home. His friends affectionately called him "Spore Man." He loved the outdoors and enjoyed travel and photography while camping, hiking and swimming in rivers with his life partner, Kit. They were frequent visitors of Pismo Beach, Sierra Mountains, Pt. Reyes and their family cabin near Lake Tahoe. Tom made friends wherever he went. Many will remember him for his quick wit, sense of humor, his charismatic personality and generosity in cooking and entertaining his family and friends.
Tom is survived by Kit Chelini, wife and soulmate (Sonoma); AJ Travis, stepson (Seiad Valley); June Chelini, mother-in-law (Sonoma); Stan Caraher, brother (Pennsylvania); Donna Caraher, sister-in-law (Pennsylvania); Jennifer Hazelhorst, niece and goddaughter (Chicago); Martin Hozelhorst, nephew-in-law (Chicago); Bella, grandniece (Chicago); Michael Chelini, brother-in-law (St. Helena); Kathy Chelini, sister-in-law (St. Helena); Misha and Missy, nieces and Rico, nephew and their families and close friends.
His father-in-law, Emil Chelini; his brother, Billy; and parents, William and Sophie, preceded him in death.
Tom loved his cats, Looney and Ziggy and his dog, Obie.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Pets Lifeline, or an animal rescue shelter of choice.
Family and friends are invited to celebrate Tom's life by bringing their favorite dish and/or beverage to share at the Sonoma Valley Woman's Club, 574 First St. E., Sonoma, on Saturday, March 12 from 1 to 6 p.m.