Thomas M. Pickford Sr., 89, of Topeka, passed away on Saturday June 8, 2019 in Topeka, Kansas. Thomas was a wonderful father, grandfather, and brother. Tom was born in Hammond, Indiana on November 20, 1929 at St. Margaret Hospital. He was the oldest son of Jerome Michael Pickford and Marguerite (Brennan) Pickford who raised him in the house at 323 Sunnyside, in Munster Indiana. He earned Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. Tom graduated High School at Hammond High School where he played multiple sports including baseball. Tom attended and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He also played on the Purdue baseball team and was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. His baseball coach at Purdue was Henry Stram. That’s right… iconic former Kansas City Chief’s head football coach Henry Louis "Hank" Stram. According to Thomas, Coach Stram definitely made the right call when he quit coaching baseball and concentrated on football.
Upon graduation from Purdue, Tom joined the Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant. While in the Marine Corps, Thomas met and married Patricia Von White of Salt Lake City Utah on October 3, 1953 in Jacksonville North Carolina. Tom was a combat engineer and served during the Korean War. After active duty service, he remained in the Marine Corp Reserve. While in the Marine Corp Reserve Thomas was very active in the Toys for Tots campaign in Topeka. He ultimately retired at the rank of Colonel. After serving active duty Marine Corps, Tom took a sales position with Armco Steel Corporation, wherein he started in St. Louis Missouri, but was transferred to Topeka, Kansas in the early 1960’s. After 30 years of service with Armco Steel Corporation, he retired as the District Sales Manager.
Tom and Pat raised their family for many years in their house at 2824 Burnett. They were living there on June 8, 1966 when the tornado hit Topeka. After the tornado hit, Thomas and next door neighbor “Dave Huntsman walked two blocks toward the obliterated residential area at S.W. 29th and Gage before a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper pulled up in his car and told them people were parking along Interstate 470 and stealing items from the rubble. The trooper asked if either one of them could handle a gun. When Pickford answered yes, the trooper gave him a shotgun and a handful of shells and told them to divert sightseers away from the damaged area while he responded to the looting problem. They left their posts when the trooper returned about an hour later.”
Thomas and Pat moved to Lake Sherwood in the mid 1970’s. Tom was an avid golfer, and an active member of Shawnee Country Club. He served as President of the club, and played in many tournaments including Club Championships, the Topeka City Amateur and the Kansas State Amateur. During his lifetime, he had four holes in one (9-28-1968, 9-21-1989, 7-21-1990, and 8-16-1996) and at least four double eagles on par 5 holes.
After retiring from Armco, Tom served as the Shawnee County Public Works Director and was a Board Member for the Kansas Association of Counties. For a period of time, Tom was the Executive Director of the Kansas Asphalt Pavers Association. Tom is quoted regarding his professional engineering opinions in several articles: Self-Interest Spurs Highway Bill Support, Ottawa Herald and Perry firm wins asphalt award, Lawrence Journal World.
Thomas is survived by his sister Patricia Blake of Phoenix, Arizona; his four children, Mollie Martin and her husband Barry Martin of Olathe Kansas, Peggy Pickford of Topeka Kansas, Thomas M. Pickford Jr. and his wife Barbara Pickford of Cypress Texas, and Timothy Pickford and his wife Linda Pickford of McKinney Texas; his seven grandchildren Amanda Martin of Olatha Kansas, Carrie Dusenberry and her husband Ryan Dusenberry of Overland Park Kansas, Lisa Herbert and her husband Samuel Herbert of Wichita Kansas, Nichole Fishbeck and her husband Keith Fishbeck of Tulsa Oklahoma, Kelly Hataway and her husband Zach Hataway of Frisco Texas, Thomas Bailey Pickford, and Samantha Pickford of McKinney Texas; his two great grandchildren Dean Dusenberry and Francie Dusenberry both of Overland Park Kansas.
Cremation has taken place. Thomas will be buried next to his wife Patricia at the Leavenworth National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate contributions to Tom’s favorite charities, the Topeka Helping Hands Humane Society Inc., 5720 SW21st Street, Topeka, Kansas 66604; or the College of Engineering, Purdue University, Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, 701 W. Stadium Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045.
Dove Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Rd. is assisting the family.
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