Tom Sears, Jr., just can’t manage to stay out of trouble. The quick-witted 79-year-old has been retired from his “day job” as a popular orthodontist in Greensboro for nearly 17 years. However, that hasn’t stopped he and his wife Sara from becoming what Seasons Magazine called “two of the South’s most respected preservationists and collectors of rare antiques.”
“I have a bad addiction to historic architecture,” says Tom. “Can’t seem to do anything about it.”
The busy couple’s love for antiques has landed them on boards and committees over the years. Both served on the advisory board for the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) and the board of trustees for Old Salem Museum and Gardens in Winston-Salem.
Tom has been chairperson on both boards and is currently director of grounds and buildings for Old Salem. In addition, Tom is a board member and major events committee member for the Society of American Period Furniture Makers.
“I wind up in leadership jobs somehow,” says Tom. “I don’t try to look for them but they just happen.”
According to Tom, they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, which is part of what drew he and Sara to River Landing. The Sears’ are looking forward to moving into their cottage in the community before the end of the year.
The cottage was key for Tom. “I’m having the two-car garage wired so I can move much of my woodworking equipment there,” he adds.
The couple had been researching CCRCs for a few years before sitting in on a presentation by River Landing’s director of community relations, Amy Rosen. “It was the most elegant, non-salesy presentation we had ever heard,” Tom says.
Their initial impressions were confirmed when they had a chance to hear from the River Landing staff. “It was a town hall type of meeting,” says Tom, “…the staff members seemed very genuine in what they did. You could tell. It wasn’t just a job.”
The continuous presence that Presbyterian Homes has had in the area also played a factor. “I’ve always been impressed with management and how committed they are. There were no weak links. Events and everything are done beautifully,” explains Tom.
That’s high praise from a craftsman with an exceptional eye for detail. Tom’s work on a set of copies of early Annapolis chairs from the mid-1700s led to national recognition and his involvement with the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. Not to mention that they built their current home in 1977 as a brick-by-brick replica of the historic John Vogler House from Old Salem — room after room furnished with period-appropriate pieces the couple has painstakingly restored over the years.
While Tom will certainly miss the house, he will not miss climbing up and down the stairs.
“I’m looking forward to just being in a place where we need to be for the future. We’re fortunate to be able to get out and do pretty much what we want to do. But you never know. I’m not slowing down until I have to.”
Indeed. Tom has found himself in charge of the Society for American Period Furniture Making’s next big event coming up later this year. He adds with a laugh, “like I said, I can’t seem to stay out of trouble.”