Tom Gillespie, 86, died peacefully at home in Dallas, Ore., on Feb. 25, 2019, with his loving wife of 36 years by his side. He is survived by his wife, Carol; sister, Susie (Jay) Jewett; and children Karen (Dave), Diane, Sue (Kevin), Marie, T.J., Sheryl (Eric) and Jack (Lisa); as well as seven grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. Daughter Marchita died shortly after birth.
Tom was born in Wahpeton, N.D. Some of his most special memories of North Dakota were living with his Grandpa Tom and Grandma Nan where teams of draft horses were used for all of the farming. This was Tom’s introduction to horses which became a lifelong passion for him. Tom was 12 when his grandfather suddenly passed away of a heart attack and this is when he moved to Great Falls, Mont., to live with his father Tom and stepmom Ione.
Upon completion of high school, he joined the U.S. Navy where he served on the USS Brinkley Bass during the Korean War. He had harrowing stories of surviving this war, but was always proud to be a veteran of the great United States.
After the war, Tom returned to Great Falls where he started a family and eventually became the assistant administrator at Columbus Hospital. He later served as a hospital administrator in Polson, Mont., and in Oregon. In Polson, he was instrumental in the continuation and growth of St. Joseph Hospital, and he was a very active community member.
Tom’s passion for animals was passed on to his children and at very young ages they had Shetland ponies and then horses. He was superintendent of the American Shetland Pony Show at the Montana State Fair for decades, and also managed many open horse shows and rodeos in Great Falls and Polson. His ability to raise funds for these events was admirable and not a trait he passed on to his children.:-) The family has many special memories of showing saddle, roadster and fine harness ponies (Shetland, Hackney, Welsh), American Saddlebred horses in pleasure, five-gaited, and fine harness, and of course show jumpers. These competitions took the family all over Montana and to Canada, California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Washington.
Tom was always up for a game of cards and had an uncanny skill of remembering the cards played. He taught his family a number of different games and thoroughly enjoyed those games in which he could take “their” money. Cards and ice cream went hand-in-hand — providing bountiful memories.
Tom and Carol continued to show ponies after moving to Oregon, and then they became avid breeders and handlers of AKC Toy Pomeranians. In addition to dogs, you could always find a llama, chickens, ducks, guinea hens and cats at their Oregon home.
Tom will be fondly remembered by family and friends as a loving husband, dedicated father, distinguished horsemen, supportive dog show groom, accomplished hospital administrator, colorful dresser, life enthusiast, proud patriot and U.S. Navy veteran.
A private family celebration of life will be held at a later date.