2010 Second Mile Award Winner: Tom Hoe, 95, Montana
We had our work cut out for us to narrow down the nominations to select a winner of The Second Mile Award. We're pleased to announce that Tom Hoe, 95, of Ennis, Montana is the winner of the 2010 Second Mile Award. He is a musician, storyteller, community contributor, and so much more. Tom continues to go the extra mile. Jan Beekman nominated Tom. She is his Senior Companion, and friend. They sing and play music together. We were struck by the many parallels between my father's life and Tom's. I'm sure they'd love to sit down to play music and swap stories.
We've selected two honorable mentions: Joe Taylor and Helen G. O'Leary. The essays nominating these two Elders are coming soon. Now....Here' Tom Hoe. --Janet Riehl
Tom Hoe: How to Grow in Grace and Experience
– but Never Grow Old
Tom Hoe epitomizes the spirit of the Second Mile Award which honors Erwin A. Thompson. Like Erwin, Tom celebrated his 95th birthday this year surrounded by family and friends who love and admire him. Tom lived the first 62 years of his life in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was born on January 12, 1915.
Like Erwin, Tom served in the military during World War II. Tom was stationed in the northern part of France from 1943 to 1945. He was in charge of a group of German prisoners. “They were not soldiers,” Tom explained. “They were civilians. Most of them did not agree with what Hitler was doing. I took time to get to know them. I never had a bit of trouble with them.” That spirit of friendliness and trust follows Tom in his life to this day and has allowed him to make an enormous impact on the lives of others.
When Tom left the military and returned to Colorado in 1945, he returned to school and received his Master’s Degree in Education. He became Director of the Boys Club of Colorado Springs for 17 years. His love of the troubled boys there created a mutual trust which changed those young fellas lives forever.
In 1947 he married the love of his life, Annie Dell Clark. Together they raised six children – 5 boys and a girl. Additionally, they took care of neighborhood kids, brought sick animals back to health, and watched their family increase with 17 grandchildren and 7 (or 8… he lost count) great-grandchildren.
Tom remembers one red tail hawk that landed near their home with a broken wing. He and Annie mended its wing, fed it and nursed it back to health for two months or more – until it was ready to fly again. Several months later it came back to pay its respects. He knew it was that same hawk just like he recognized the bear cub that returned after it lived for a week or more with him and his boys at a camp one summer. Oh, the stories he can tell about that cub and its impact on those youngsters!
Tom went to Palmer High when he left the Boys Club. He taught one of the first “Work Experience” classes in the western USA. They didn’t call it that in those days, but it was a group of troubled kids who had been kicked out of their homes and were about to drop out of school. They needed a job to support themselves. He taught them in the mornings and they went to work in the afternoons.
His classroom and his home became a safe haven for those kids. Again, his love for them and his willingness to listen to them and try to understand them created a lasting impression and made a difference in their lives. He went the extra mile at Palmer High for 13 years, until his knees gave out and he had to retire. In 1977, he and Annie moved to Montana where his two older sons lived. Doc Losee at the Ennis Hospital replaced one of Tom’s knees and helped him start getting around better again.
Getting around is what he continues to do well, too. At 95, he still goes the extra mile to help others. He’s like the “Energizer Bunny” – he just keeps on tickin’! With transportation help from friends and family, he plays the guitar “for the old folks” at the Nursing Home in Ennis when they have their monthly birthday party. He entertains occasionally in the park when there is a Fishing Festival or a Hunters’ Feed, playing his guitar and his harmonica with the Tune Tanglers, and singing all the old cowboy songs, telling stories, and reciting poems.
Tom sang in his church choir from the age of 8 until his failing eyesight prevented him from reading the music, but he still sings special numbers at church when asked, and every Christmas he recites to the congregation the Christmas story from Luke. He has it memorized along with poems like “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”
Tom's memory is phenomenal. Tom also goes the extra mile by serving as chaplain of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, leading services on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day and officiating at funerals. In his Indian costume, he performs wedding ceremonies. Tom is a legend in his own time and a role model for all of us. As I age, I want to do so like Tom… growing in grace and experience, but never letting age make me old!
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