Thomas “Tom” Loomis, age 82, of Martin, S.D., died on Sunday, February 13, 2022, at his home in Martin.
Thomas Hart Loomis was born in Hartford, Conn., February 23, 1939, to James Lee Loomis and Virginia Grace Loomis. He spent his early childhood years living in West Hartford, and Bloomfield before the James Loomis family of six moved to rural Canton in 1950, remaining there for many years. Over time, the four siblings spread out across the country. The oldest, James Lee Loomis III, lives in Maui, Hawaii, Tom eventually settled in Martin, younger brother Pierre (Pete) in Monmouth, Ill., and Virginia (Ginger) Loomis Parker resides in Mount Dora, Fla.
Tom’s teenage years were full of adventures. He went into the egg business at 16 with his brother Pete, then 12. The pair bought 200-day-old chicks, and then, encouraged by their mother, allowed their sister Ginger, 8, to buy four. Two months later when four young chickens were found dead, Tom and Pete said they belonged to Ginger--which removed her as a partner in their enterprise. Once the hens started producing eggs, the two boys were soon spending many hours delivering their bounty. Of course, Tom managed to deliver to the houses where the young ladies were, while assigning Pete to the houses with mean dogs.
Tom loved animals. He captured a baby crow, tamed it and named it Crawford. The pet crow stayed with the family all summer and Tom had many fond memories of that crow finding black berries and stuffing them into the pockets of his usual white shirts (creating nasty laundry problems). The crow was not popular with Tom’s parents as it kept pulling the clothes pins off the clothesline with predictable results. Crawford’s “droppings” began accumulating in abundance on the roof and sometimes on the family car which made Crawford unpopular with Tom’s father.
After high school Tom dabbled in many different occupations. He tried working in an office, but it didn’t suit him. He traveled the country selling felt covered slate for pool tables which was fun, but little money. Eventually Tom started working for a Connecticut company selling and servicing truck engine brakes, a job he liked. Think of Tom when you hear that loud engine “barking” sound as large tractor trailers slow down.
One career move changed Tom’s life; he started a company in Connecticut making bows and arrows. Named Outdoor Sports, the company was doing well until a depression came along in the late 70’s. The business started struggling so Tom had to make a quick pivot. Through a friend who worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tom sold the machinery and equipment of his company to the Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Part of the deal was that Tom went with the equipment to help set up the business and get it running.
Tom fell in love with South Dakota, the geography, the people, the quiet. He wanted to improve conditions on the reservation by providing gainful employment, so he worked hard to get the arrow factory up and running. Later he turned the operation of the factory over to the tribe, and he happily remained in Martin, now forever.
Thomas Hart Loomis loved life. He squeezed joy and gratitude out of every experience, much like he would squeeze the last remaining drops of juice from his favorite, a freshly picked ruby red grapefruit.
His smile would light up a room. His laugh or chuckle was contagious. He left fun-filled memories behind as he traveled by car from Martin to all points of the compass, pursuing business opportunities or simply visiting family and friends. His arrival usually included a six pack, a Pizza Hut pizza and always a laugh. Hangovers often remained in the wake of his departure. He could party with the best of them.
His fun-loving antics gifted his large extended family and friends with memories, laughs and legend-worthy stories that will last for generations. His beloved “adopted” nephew, when asked about his favorite “Uncle Tommy” memory said, “it wasn’t a memory; it was an experience.”
His trusty steeds, always purchased from Bair Ford in Martin, ranged from a Thunderbird with suicide doors, a Ford Fiesta (“great gas mileage!”), an old Blue Chevy, an Audi (“piece of crap!”) and an F250 with a secret (and illegal) gas tank in the back (for when he truly found the cheapest gas).
Tom knew where the best gas prices were from coast-to-coast, well before the internet existed, and refused to pay more. He traveled with nothing but a small brown bag that had one fresh shirt, a pair of old white socks, a toothbrush, a razor, comb and occasionally some after shave. He carried cash.
Tom was a supportive friend, cousin, father and brother who would show up at the right time to help someone who was in pain from loss, divorce or heartache. He was there for you and always answered the phone. He could usually get you laughing and offer wisdoms fitting the situation.
He also had a quiet reclusive side. As he aged and the world started going in a direction that didn’t suit him, he retreated to his beloved little red farmhouse eleven miles East of Martin. It was forever his sanctuary.
Over the years, he became “South D’s” biggest one-man tourist office (at least to his large extended family) as he espoused its beauty, simplicity, and bragged - truly believing - that he lived in the banana belt of the Midwest.
He believed in the riches of experiences and delivered those with abundance to his daughters, nieces, nephews, and friends. From camping, fishing, rodeos, and pow wows in South Dakota to safaris in Africa, and fishing in New Zealand, he did it all. He enjoyed nothing more, however, than watching the sun set over the rolling South Dakota hills as he lounged in the hot tub on his deck, a martini in hand.
Tom was a giver. He wanted to see people succeed and empowered many of those around him in Martin or Florida to become businessmen and entrepreneurs. He freely gave of his money and advice when he saw an opportunity that would benefit those he cared about. Many have benefited from his insight. He often reminded friends facing a financial challenge, “If you have your health, you are the richest person in the world.” He was right.
Later in life his unequivocal convictions pushed him away from some of his biggest fans, but in the end it all was rooted in his deep sense of caring.
Around age 70, when most people are starting to wind down, Tom hit his stride. He found and married Sharon, the love of his life, and adopted her three children. He had the pitter patter of little, and not so little, feet throughout the house. He cherished every moment. He enjoyed being “retired” but more often than not was found in “the Pit” a small tornado shelter that doubled as a basement. Here, he dabbled in day trading, sent out his infamous emails and who knows what else, all the while happily surrounded by photos, awards, letters, and other memories which he had scotch taped all over the walls.
Few have the clarity of where they want to be for the rest of their lives. Tom Loomis knew how he wanted to live and where he wanted to die. Thanks to the loving care provided by his wife Sharon and help by caring, thoughtful friends, Tom was able to live his final days exactly where he wanted to be. Tom was born in Hartford, Connecticut and died in Martin, South Dakota on a sunny day in February ten days before his 83rd birthday.
At the end of his life, when asked by his eldest daughter why he loved Martin so, he replied with tears in his eyes, “The people here, they are such good people.” He had traveled the world but found no better place to be than here. He often said, “When a man dies the world loses a library” and he was right. How blessed we all are for having known him and been a part of his adventure.
He leaves behind wife Sharon Loomis, Martin; his three siblings: Virginia Parker, Mt. Dora, Fla., Pete Loomis of Monmouth, Ill., and Jim Loomis of Maui, Hawaii; his children: Jennifer Loomis, Seattle, Wash., Elizabeth Loomis, Palm Springs, Calif., Christine Loomis, Rapid City, Sam Loomis, St. Louis, MO, and Aspen Loomis, Martin; grandson Morrison Hart Loomis-Jonas, Seattle; and countless nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, enemies, and fans.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Graveside services were held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, February 18, 2022, at the Martin Community Cemetery. At Tom’s request please do not wear black to the graveside service.
Arrangements are with Rush Funeral Home of Philip.