February 16, 2012


A life of music, pictures

Tom Haskell, who died on Sunday, earned acclaim for his portraits and musical abilities

HaskellBob Ellis/staff photographer
Tom Haskell poses in 2002 at his office with a few of the many photos he had taken during his world travels to over 40 countries. Haskell died Sunday at the age of 63. His funeral is Friday.

Staff Reporter

Tom Haskell loved to tell stories about his two loves, music and photography.
He was not bragging, really, when he spoke about positioning President Ronald Reagan for a photograph at the White House, or dancing with Janis Joplin. He was simply proud of his work, friends said Tuesday.
“He would get his espresso and wander, talking to people,” said Karina Murphy, owner of The Blue Frog Coffeehouse in downtown Cortland, which displayed Haskell’s images and hosted talks by him. “Tom took a lot of pride in what he’d accomplished.”
Haskell, 63, died Sunday at his home at Bellview Gardens in Cortland.
Calling hours were 4 to 7 p.m. today at Riccardi Funeral Home, 69 N. Main St. Burial will be Friday at St. Mary’s Cemetery, following an 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary’s Church.
Haskell attended St. Mary’s School and graduated in 1967 from Cortland High School. He received an associate’s degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College in 1975 and taught guitar at TC3 as an adjunct professor for 12 years.
A professional musician while still in high school, Haskell performed from 1965 until 1988, notably with the Ed Wool Band and Pineapple Heard in Watertown and other parts of upstate New York. He played on Wool’s 1969 album “Wool,” which was guided by Neil Diamond.
He became a freelance photographer in 1988, first in Washington, D.C., and then in Cortland. His firm, Tom Haskell Photoworks, received assignments from the White House, among other Washington clients. His photographs appeared in Newsweek, Time, Parade, Family Circle, Fortune and through the Associated Press and Reuters, along with publications across the world.
Haskell liked to tell a story about a shooting session with Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, where he showed Reagan where to stand and then was informed by the president’s aides that he would never work at the White House again because he could not tell Reagan what to do.
Two weeks later, he said, he got a call saying President Reagan had been asking about him. Reagan liked the way Haskell directed him because it reminded him of his movie career. He was hired back.
Haskell traveled the world from 1992 to 2002 as a volunteer photographer accompanying his high school classmate and then-wife, Catherine Bertini, head of the World Food Programme and then undersecretary general of the United Nations. He photographed people in Africa, China and Europe, and liked to tell the stories behind the photographs.
“Tom was very good at capturing the eyes of the person, which told a story in itself,” said Judy Riehlman, his sponsor in Cortland’s Lunchtime Rotary Club. “He had this soft voice and gracious manner, which allowed people to let him shoot their picture.”
Two of his images of the Coliseum in Rome hang on a wall at Connie Gamel Beautique, in the Marketplace Mall.
Haskell’s work can be viewed at
Riehlman, who sponsored Haskell as a member of the Rotary Club, said he served on many committees and was a fine lunchtime companion. The Rotary Club had a moment of silence for him Tuesday before lunch.
Murphy said Haskell took pride in helping Cortland businesses, getting photographs framed at Burt’s Framery in Marketplace Mall.
“I’m really stunned and sad,” she said. “He was a real presence in Cortland.”
Contributions in Haskell’s memory can be made to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe