Dr. Tom Fay of North County. Photo courtesy family

Thomas J. “Tom” Fay, a naturopathic doctor who dedicated the last two decades of his life to helping thousands of patients with acute and chronic conditions in North County, died Aug. 17 of natural causes, according to his family.

He was 64.

Dr. Fay ran the Choosing Nature clinic in San Marcos and Encinitas since the late 1990s. Called a generous and gregarious man, Fay helped many when their insurance plans did not cover naturopathic medicine.

It was a field he came to later in life. When Tom Fay’s wife was diagnosed and later died of breast cancer, he wanted to know why, said his daughter Lisa Fay Gatton. His questions led him to take up the study of holistic approach to health and he ultimately become an expert in naturopathic medicine.

A retired Marine, Fay considered himself an American patriot, a political libertarian, business entrepreneur and magnanimous civic contributor. As such, he was active with local interests and raised donations annually for the Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots holiday program..

Thomas J. Fay was born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1953, the son of the late James P. Fay Sr. and Doris C. (Ireland) Fay, and was one of six children. He graduated from Norwalk High School in 1972 and, at the height of the Vietnam War, decided to sign up for military service with a friend.

The friend, John Campbell, said they wanted to enlist rather than be drafted.

“We knew we wanted to go in the service but we didn’t know which one,” Campbell said.

Campbell wanted to join the Air Force, but Fay favored the Marines after making friends while playing cards with a recruiter at the recruit depot. They both signed up for the Marines.

The men did basic training at Camp Pendleton and Fay became staff sergeant and served in Okinawa, Japan, during the war. In 1976, he married Chizuko Higa, whom he had met in Okinawa. They had a daughter, Michelle (Fay) Burrill, who survives him. The marriage ended in divorce.

He returned to Camp Pendleton and, while serving there, was injured as a passenger in a serious motor vehicle accident. He received a medical retirement from the Marines in 1978, Campbell said.

He returned to Connecticut and established Ultimate Carpet and Interior Design in Ridgefield, one of many businesses he founded. In 1980, Fay married Judy Madeira Fay, then a nursing student. The Fays had two children, Gatton and Anthony Fay of San Diego.

He sold his business and moved to Kingman, Ariz., with Judy Fay, who had become a registered nurse. In Kingman, Fay worked for the city’s performing arts center, where he planned, managed and scheduled live events.

Many performers, from concert pianists to mimes would bunk in his home, Gatton said.

After Judy Fay was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Fay earned a bachelor’s degree at George Fox University in Newberg in 1994.

Mrs. Fay’s illness and eventual death in 1995 prompted Fay’s interest in natural medicine. Then a single father, he moved his family to Phoenix, where he studied for four years and earned a doctorate in 1998 at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona.

After graduation, he went to work for Pleomorphic Products Sales Inc., where he wrote a medical journal about the firm’s supplements products.

He returned to California and in 1997 and founded the Leucadia Naturopathic Clinic in Encinitas, which later became Choosing Nature, a naturopathic consulting practice that also sold vitamins and supplements.

In 2008, Dr. Fay married Tracy Collins, a former customer service representative at Legoland. He was active in the North County business community and was for a time a member of the Encinitas Lions Club.

Besides his wife of nine years, Fay is survived by three sisters, two brothers, three children and five grandchildren; his daughter, Gatton, and her husband, Thomas Gatton, and their children Aiden and Harrison, of San Diego; son, Anthony Fay, of San Diego; and daughter from his first marriage, Michelle Fay Burrill, and her husband, Matt Burrill, and their sons, Devon, Alexander and Adam Burrill, of Connecticut.

He also leaves behind his siblings, James Fay Jr. and his wife, Mary, of Keene, N.H.; Mary-Ann Ancker and her husband Walter of Norwalk, Conn.; William Fay of Darien, Ga.; Patricia Collins and her husband, Gerold, of Marlow, N.H.; and Nancy Cogliandro and her husband, Chris, of Dublin, N.H.

A memorial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31. at the Miramar Chapel at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, 45549 Bauer Rd., Building 5632, San Diego. Graveside services are at 1 p.m. Miramar National Cemetery, 5795 Nobel Drive, San Diego.