Rev. David Thomas “Tom” Hardison

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Tom Hardison, 85, of Durham, passed away peacefully at his home on December 6, 2021.  He was born in Washington, NC to Esther Mae Arnold, later Mrs. Hilton Alligood, and Audrey Burrell Hardison.  Tom was educated at St. Agnes Academy and Washington High School.  Following high school, Tom went far out into the world to continue his education and to develop a varied career which reflected his interests in music, health, and Zen Buddhism.

Tom trained at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Dayton, Virginia, and the Julliard School in New York City.  At Julliard, he earned his BS in 1959 and MS in 1960.  In 1960, he opened a studio for teaching piano in New Canaan, Connecticut.  In 1963, he was invited to join Eastern Michigan University where he taught five years as an assistant professor.  He also taught music education at Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY as well as at Westport School of Music in Westport, CT and Meredith College in Raleigh, NC in later years.

During his time in Connecticut, Tom developed an interest in health care and went on to earn a degree in Nursing.  He worked at Stamford Hospital in Stamford and Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk.  Then he relocated to Durham to work as an AIDS nurse at Duke Hospital.

While working as a nurse at Duke, he began studying Japanese and Zen Buddhism.  In 1990, Tom moved to Japan to enter a Zen Monastery where he trained for seven years.  He was ordained as Seiun Tozan at Daimanji Temple in Sendai, Japan.  During his time in Japan, Tom was invited to perform as a pianist at many venues.  He also studied the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

After his ordination, Tom (now also known as Tozan) settled in Blowing Rock, NC to build a Zen Temple called SEIDOAN.  He taught Zen Buddhism and the Tea Ceremony.  NHK, also called the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, a Japanese government-owned public broadcaster, came to Seidoan to film a documentary of Tom’s teaching of Japanese culture in America.  This documentary was broadcast on North Carolina’s PBS stations and all over Japan.  Tozan also volunteered at the Spruce Pine Correctional Institution to teach meditation to the prisoners and was recognized by the North Carolina Governor for his services.

Tom retired to Durham in 2004.  While in Durham, he developed a wide circle of friends, usually sharing his interests in music, the arts, and Zen Buddhism.  Tom is remembered for his lively dinner parties, often featuring seafood reminiscent of his childhood on the bank of the Pamlico River.  He also is remembered for the gorgeous flowers and vegetables from his garden as well as his love for the three Jack Russell terriers that served as his faithful companions over the years.

Tom is survived by his sisters Miriam (Preston) Phillips, Bryon, GA; and Teresa (Danny) Smith, Washington, NC; nieces and nephews, Ty (Shannon) Carter; Elisa Phillips, Lee Phillips, Etta Carter, Daniel (Jamielyn) Smith and Jacklyn (Todd) Buck; and several grandnieces and grandnephews.  He was preceded in death by his sister, Sister Jane Hardison, IHM (formerly known as Sister Timothy Marie, of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.)

To honor Tom’s life, donations may be made to your favorite organization promoting the arts and music.