Our beloved Tom Jones passed away peacefully and comfortably on January 23rd. As one granddaughter noted, Grandpa Tom, our gentle giant, swooped Grandma Rita up immediately after arriving in his Heavenly Home. Yet, as St. Michael Catholic Church posted, we are so sad to lose one of the most dedicated men to God.
Tom was born on December 7, 1934, in Minot, ND to Marion Jones. He joined the family of two older brothers, Ed and Robert (Bob). In his early years, the family moved to Lewistown, MT where he spent his formative years graduating from Fergus High School in 1952.
Even though he always had a job outside of school from the age of 12, Tom managed to become quite a sports phenom for Fergus High and American Legion Baseball. You would never know about his athletic prowess after casually visiting with him as he was such a humble man. He excelled in baseball, basketball, track, but especially in football. He played in the Shrine Game earning honors as Outstanding Lineman for the game and was offered scholarships by many colleges. His stories of what the early Shrine Game was like were unbelievable. He became an Oregon State Beaver and had even played in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. He remained a lifelong OSU Beaver fan.
Tom transferred to Montana State College his sophomore year and graduated from there adding the MSU Bobcats to his favorite teams. After a visit to the McCracken family farm in Ledger, he fell in love with his future wife, Rita.
Tom and Rita were married on November 24, 1956, at St. Michael Catholic Church in Conrad and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2016. They were headed for 63 years before Rita passed away in 2019. Epitomizing the truest example of partners in marriage and life, they were seldom seen apart from one another.
Tom joined the Army and they traveled with the military in their early married years. After an honorable discharge from the Army, they eventually settled in Ledger on the family farm and ranch. It was there that they raised their five children, Deb, Clark, Paul, Ruth, and Mack and welcomed their children’s spouses, many grandchildren and great grandchildren into their fold. Tom was a member of BPOE (Elks), the Loyal Order of Moose, and served as school board trustee and clerk at Higgins School during this time. They led their family in knowing what it meant to love the Lord and their children are incredibly grateful to have been raised in their parents’ care.
Tom and Rita were the ultimate “minimalists” before that word became trendy. However, there was one exception to that – he always drove nice, new, well-maintained vehicles. Even though Tom cherished life on the farm and prairie, he was drawn to the beauty of Western MT. One activity that Tom completely enjoyed was taking a “Sunday Drive” with seven people crammed in the car. West of the mountains was a favorite destination of his and if it was July, Tom knew the best Flathead Cherry stand and the best huckleberry picking area. Rita would bake up his favorite pies afterward. As empty nesters, the two of them took several long winter drives attending bull sales and checking off items on their bucket list. They visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras, the Carolinas, Southeast USA, Southwest USA, and Western USA often stopping to visit relatives and acquaintances.
In 1994, in retirement, Tom and Rita moved to Polson. He built by hand their life-long dream home on the east shore of Flathead Lake. The construction and landscaping of this home showed Tom’s unequaled ability in these areas. They moved back to Ledger in 2016.
Tom lived his later years with Parkinson’s Disease, Macular Degeneration, Diabetes, and Diabetic Retinopathy. He was virtually blind and very hard of hearing. This had a significant impact on his quality of life but not on his outlook on life as it would most people. He was the rock of the family, instilling the ethic of hard work in his children. Up to his final days, Tom guided us in a life of gratitude for what we did have. On his last birthday, he attended Mass at Extended Care with two of his children, had a homemade roast beef sandwich on Dave’s Killer Bread and fresh veggies. Of course, the meal was capped off with his favorite – pie! He prayed the Rosary daily (often several times in a day). He attended his last Mass on Thursday, January 18th and even though he’d been sleeping and non-responsive most of the week, Tom recited all the prayers.
Tom was preceded in death by his wife Rita, daughter Ruth, grandsons Cody and Casey, mother Marion, brothers Ed and Bob as well as other family members. He is survived by his children and their spouses, Deb (Tom), Clark (Tammy), Paul (Cathy), Kim Hood (Ruth’s spouse), and Mack (Lori); grandchildren Tyler (Crystal), Gen (Jon), Sheridan (Tara), Cortni, Justin (Ariel), Dusty (Lyndee), Charmolita (Josh), Pablo (Lindsay), Katie, Philip (Darla), Taylor (Corissa), Jaynee, and Gavin and 15 great-grandchildren.
The family would like to thank Dr. Taylor at Logan Health Rural Clinic for his compassionate care of Tom. He was a favorite of the staff in the Logan Health Extended Care and sincerely appreciated their care. He always enjoyed the cup of hot coffee Dan Aakre would bring him after his PT session. And he loved the good haircut Brenda Pruttis provided. The Eucharistic Ministers, particularly Penny Douglas, made sure he received the Sacrament of Communion. The outpouring of condolences from the communities of Conrad, Ledger, and Polson has proven what a loved, disciplined, and trustworthy man he was. We are more than thankful for all of this. The compassion and care of Father Matthew and staff at St. Michael Catholic church has helped the family so much.
Services for Tom are planned on Thursday, February 1st beginning with Rosary at 6:30 p.m. and Vigil at 7:00 p.m. Friday, February 2nd will be the Funeral Mass at 10:00 a.m. These services will be held at St. Michael Catholic Church in Conrad. Rite of Committal will follow at Hillside Cemetery with Military Honors. A luncheon will conclude the day’s celebration of Tom’s life back at St. Michael Catholic Church.
Well done, kind and faithful servant.
Memorials in Tom’s honor are suggested to (please put Tom Jones in memo line):
St. Michael Catholic Church
Holy Spirit Radio Station