In the late hours of Monday, March 9, our dear Scotch-Irishman, Tom Gillespie, bid a peaceful farewell to this world on his way to the next. He was born September 19, 1953, in Dearborn, Michigan, to Robert and Jeanne Gillespie into a family that would eventually include 5 children. Tom was the middle child but only in sequence, not in nature. He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, attending Pius X High School and graduating from the Abbey in Canon City, Colorado. Tom then graduated in 1975 with a BA in Economics (when he realized his 1st semester GPA of 1.9 wasn’t going to take him through pre-med studies as initially planned), having honed the finer points of a “college experience”. Tom made wonderful friends throughout his youth in Lincoln, his college years at the University of Notre Dame and during his adult years. He was a loyal, generous and kind friend. He had an incredible sense of humor that just naturally drew people to him. He could develop a whole lounge routine from any small event or detail. He was never mean spirited and always delighted in making people laugh. None of his family or friends ever seemed to tire of his slightly embellished stories, regardless of the number of times we heard them.
After college, Tom moved to Chicago, working at the American National Bank. It was during this time, that he met Suzanne Hedrick and they were married in 1979 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Even though the two of them were from fairly different backgrounds, they seemed to be the yin to the other’s yang. This amazing friendship-marriage has continued to this day and Tom could make Suzi laugh at the smallest story or quip. Tom and Suzi had a marriage that was the envy of all of their family and friends. They were best friends throughout their years together and amazing partners in all aspects of their marriage.
Tom and Suzi moved from Chicago to Boise in 1980. Once his father-in-law realized that bird-hunting and fishing were not to be a strong addition to his extracurricular activities, Tom took up golf which became a life-long sport he loved.
It was also in Boise that he started his career with Hewlett-Packard that would take him and his family from Boise to Ft. Collins, Guadalajara Mexico, and back to Boise where he eventually retired in 2015 as Finance Director of the LaserJet Enterprise & Solutions. Tom led by example, mentoring and encouraging many employees, never asking his staff to do work that he would not readily do himself.
In 1988, Tom & Suzi welcomed their first daughter, Anne-Marie into their lives followed two years later by Cara. As Cara and Anne-Marie will attest, Tom adored his daughters. He was an outstanding, loyal father demonstrating the enviable character traits of a strong work ethic, humor, generosity, and helpfulness. He tried to impress on them through example not to take life too seriously but to work hard and take responsibility for their decisions.
When he thought there could be no better invention than Amazon Prime as a retiree, Tom was introduced to the miracle of grandchildren. His darling, sweet Liza was born in 2015 and 2 years later, his spunky, button-pushing Mia. His granddaughters brought such joy to him. They quickly learned about his teasing and how he loved them. And in typical fashion, he and Suzi discussed at length how they were going to keep gifts for the girls to a minimum, and then put the larger sums of money saved into their college funds. Okay, agreed, this is what Tom and Suzi will do. But as you can likely guess, Liza and Mia had only to mention the “motorized blue Jeep” that looked like such fun and within days, here it came with Liza and Mia in the seats, with huge grins and waving wildly to Hutch, their nickname for Tom.
Tom’s work took him around the world, but his favorite places remained Scottsdale and his beloved Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa. He had wonderful childhood memories at the family’s cottage and he took great joy in taking his two girls there every summer to recreate that summer magic. In 2013, Tom and Suzi’s dream came true when they were able to buy a small cottage near his brother’s lake house. For the past five years he relished every summer at the “Canary Cottage” (you likely can guess the color), taking in the ever-changing scenery, the sunsets, boating with his best buddy Kevin, and sharing his little piece of paradise with his two granddaughters.
Tom and Suzi were at their lake cottage vacationing last summer when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His brother Kevin “circled the medical wagons” and arranged for immediate and extraordinary care for Tom, from numerous physicians including the remarkable Mark Stavas, Radiation Oncologist and the outstanding Eric Avery, Medical Oncologist whose attentive and expert care made it possible for Tom to return home 6 weeks ago to the conscientious care of Nicholas Gorden, Medical Oncologist.
Tom has always adored his family, immediate and extended, including nieces and nephews, often tagging them with nicknames that evolved through the years. He will be missed beyond measure by his wife, Suzanne of 41 years, their two daughters, Anne-Marie Gillespie (Ventura, CA) and Cara Van Sant (Pete/Boise, ID), granddaughters Liza and Mia Van Sant (Boise), his mom Jeanne (Gillespie Schupbach/Boise), his siblings, Jeanne Eulberg (Mike/Woodinville, WA), Kathy Smith (Golden, CO), Kevin Gillespie (Lincoln, NE) and Greg Gillespie (Mary Jo/Lincoln, NE).
Our heartfelt appreciation to all who have supported Tom through this part of the journey: family, friends, and medical staff. We are grateful beyond expression for knowing Tom because he made each of our lives immeasurably better. While we will miss him, each in our own way, we can honor our association and friendship with him by “paying forward” his loyalty, friendship, and his love of life. Donations can be made in memory of Tom Gillespie, NHO (Nebraska Hematology & Oncology) Cancer Charity Golf Tournament, 4004 Pioneer Woods Drive, Lincoln, NE 68506.
Godspeed and All Our Love, Tom
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