Thomas Darragh Mullins 2nd died peacefully at his home in Lambert’s Cove on Dec. 31. He was 85.

Tom was born in Pittsburgh in 1935, the first child of William and Virginia Mullins. Two brothers, Brian and William followed. In 1953, while a student at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., Tom took a summer job as a substitute office boy at the headquarters of Gulf Oil Corporation in Pittsburgh. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. After a year of adventure in South Florida and the Caribbean, including clandestine flights into and out of Cuba, he returned to Pittsburgh and went to work for Gulf.

In 1960 Tom met Corinne (Coco) McLaughlin of Lake Forest, Ill., who introduced him to Martha’s Vineyard, Lambert’s Cove in particular, where her parents had a summer home. After marrying in 1961, they settled into Pittsburgh, where their first child, Tommy, was born. In 1964, they moved to London, where Tom became assistant to the managing director of Gulf Oil (Great Britain) Ltd. Their daughter Brewer was born in London in 1965. Starting in 1966 they spent two years in Beirut, Lebanon, from which Coco and the children had to be evacuated twice due to the threat of war.

Back in London, their youngest child, William, was born. Tom continued to work for Gulf until the late 1970s when he left to start his own consulting firm, Petroleum Advisory Services. Life in London was exciting, glamorous, and fun, with an emphasis on family. “He was fiercely protective of us kids,” as Tommy put it. “He always had my back.” As Brewer remembers her father, “He was loyal, he was funny, he was loving, he was vain, he was thoughtful, he had faith, he had dignity, he had grace.”

To William, Tom “was a font of knowledge on an extraordinary range of subjects, fueled by an insatiable and unapologetic curiosity. He traveled everywhere and picked up quite a collection of colorful contacts along the way.” Everywhere included 34 countries in Europe, 16 in Africa, and 30 in Asia.

Tom and Coco returned to the U.S. in the early 1990s, when Tom became associate director of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. A colleague there, Sara Roy, now a senior research scholar at the center, said of Tom: “He was erudite and engaging, a gifted teacher and raconteur whose life experiences were as amazing as they were affecting.” He was a founder and executive director of the Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program.

A perk of living in Cambridge was its proximity to the Vineyard. Tom loved to sail Vineyard Sound and nearby waters on his Vineyard Vixen 34, Nakhoda.

Their stateside honeymoon didn’t last long, sadly. Within a few years, Coco was diagnosed with early onset dementia. She died in 2001.

Tom continued to travel after his retirement, particularly to the Middle East where he lectured on tours sponsored by Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution. He served the latter as a lifetime board member, as he did the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His wanderlust was only curtailed by an advancing case of Parkinson’s Disease, which he fought until his death with a determination and acceptance that amazed everyone who knew him. Still, he went to Cuba and Alaska and, until three years ago, to France and Greece with his devoted partner, Julia Norman, whom he met in 2008. At home he took up painting under the tutelage of Val Estabrook.

He is survived by his brother Brian and his wife Polly of Pittsburgh; his three children, Thomas 3rd of Washington, D.C., Brewer Schoeller of Palm Beach and Lambert’s Cove, and William of New York city; six granddaughters, Morgan Mullins, Juliet Mullins, Coco Schoeller, Lilly Schoeller, Hannah Mullins, and Harriet Mullins; Julia Norman and dedicated caregivers Fernando Lana and Richard Awa.

Donations can be made to The MGH Parkinson’s Lewy Body Fund, Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114, Atten. K. Wojcicki, or online at